Will Sherman's Basketball Journey
Is Northern Nevada entering a golden age for high school basketball coaching? Luke Babbit has returned to the Silver State, leading the boys’ program for Bishop Manogue High School, joining other local luminaries Armon Johnson, Olek Czyz, and Matt Ochs in leading varsity programs in Northern Nevada.
Johnson starred at Hug High School before going on to play for the University of Nevada. Johnson was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers and also played for the New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, and Los Angeles Clippers. Johnson also played overseas, playing in Kazakhstan, Spain, France, and Germany. Johnson’s coaching career began at Nevada under Head Coach Eric Musselman before taking on coaching duties for Excel Christian in Sparks.
Czyz grew up playing basketball in Poland before moving to the United States. He played locally for Reno High School, leading the Huskies to two state titles (2006, 2008). After receiving offers from colleges around the country, Czyz decided to become a Duke Blue Devil and to play for Mike Krzyzewski. After two years, Czyz returned to Reno, to play for the Wolf Pack, leading the Pack to a conference title his senior year. After graduation, the Chicago Bulls signed Czyz and assigned him to their summer league team. Czyz played internationally in Poland, Italy, and France, while also maintaining a spot on the Polish National team. In addition to the Bulls, Czyz also played with the Milwaukee Bucks. Galena is Czyz’ first head coaching opportunity.
Ochs starred at Reno High School before going on to play for the University of Nevada. Ochs became the head coach for the Huskies in 2012, making him one of the longest tenured, and most successful, coaches in Northern Nevada.
Babbit starred for the Galena Grizzlies, including a 2007 state championship. Following high school, Babbit turned down out-of-state offers to play for the Wolf Pack. After two years he declared for the NBA draft where the Minnesota Timberwolves selected him with the 16th pick of the first round. He was traded to the Portland Trailblazers. Babbit went on to play with the New Orleans Pelicans, Miami Heat, and Atlanta Hawks. Bishop Manogue is his first coaching job.
There’s another local basketball product coaching, a name few would recognize, Will Sherman. Sherman grew up going to the Tom Mauer basketball camps at Galena. He saw Luke Babbit play, and like other young Grizzlies, hoped to lead Galena to a state title. His high school basketball career was cut short, following two separate shoulder surgeries. With a prodigious amount of energy to burn, Sherman funneled his energies into forming a Fellowship of Christian Athletes club at Galena and helping lead the Riot Squad, Galena’s student section. After graduating from high school, Sherman enrolled at Nevada and believed basketball to be something that was behind him until a friend asked him for help.
Ryan Gardner was the manager for Jane Albright’s University of Nevada women’s basketball team and knew Will had a passion for basketball, he asked if Will would be willing to come and practice with the women’s team. Like many college teams, the Wolf Pack had a rotating group of guys that would practice against the women’s team. Sherman jumped at the opportunity and went on to be a practice player for four years. Sherman’s senior year his role increased to include being the team manager. Team manager duties included helping in the preparation of scouting reports and practice plans, assisting with individual and group workouts, and helping with the travel planning. By this time, Sherman believed that basketball was back in his future. He was offered a graduate assistant spot at Pepperdine University; however, Sherman’s future wasn’t west, it was south.
Brittany Densman-Roes, an associate of Jane Albright’s, contacted Sherman, offering him a position on her staff at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. In speaking to the McMurry media, Densman-Roes said, of Sherman, “I am excited to add Will Sherman to our women’s staff. What immediately impressed me with Will was his high standard of moral character, as well as his servant leadership quality. He has a strong desire to serve others and have a positive impact on our scholar-athletes through the game of basketball. Will’s energy and character will be a great asset to our program.” In addition to practice and in-game duties, Sherman oversaw recruiting for the D3 program. While on staff with the War Hawks, Sherman helped guide the team to their best conference finish in more than a decade and to the ASC tournament for the first time since 2008. After two years he was offered a position with a University of Texas school, UT-Tyler.
Sherman joined the UT-Tyler Patriots staff in 2019, it is a D2 school in Tyler, Texas. Sherman was the top assistant in Tyler and was the head recruiter. Covid became a factor during Sherman’s tenure in Tyler, in particular during the 2020-2021 season when eight games were postponed or cancelled. After two difficult seasons in Tyler, Sherman found himself looking for a new coaching opportunity and found it in west Texas, at West Texas A&M.
West Texas A&M is a D2 program with a rich athletics history and a strong women’s basketball program. Sherman’s first year the team went 26-11 overall, 13-3 in conference, won their league title, tourney title, and NCAA South Central Region before losing in the Elite 8 of the D2 tournament. For the 28th time in program history, West Texas A&M has been selected to compete in the NCAA Division II National Championship, they will enter the tourney as the eighth seed with a record of 21-10, 14-8 in league play. Regarding his duties at West Texas A&M, Sherman said, “We do a little of everything, [we all] just help each other out.”
Sherman is on track to become a head coach someday, running his own college program which is pretty amazing for a guy that thought his basketball days were done while still in high school. While in high school, Sherman once shared with me that he had a vision, a dream, of himself as an adult, standing in a packed basketball gym, speaking, and leading. That dream is coming true for Sherman, who has earned the right to be included in the list of coaches that have come out of Northern Nevada. At one point, Sherman thought basketball was not a part of his future, however fate intervened, and he jumped at the opportunity. One wonders how often we miss out on a dream because we don’t say yes to taking that first step like Sherman when Gardner asked him to help with the Nevada women’s practices. Very few high school basketball players will compete for a state title, like Czyz or Babbit, and a smaller number that will move on and play college basketball, like Ochs and Johnson. Of those that partake in those opportunities even fewer will play overseas, and an even smaller percentage in the NBA. Sherman didn’t have any of those opportunities, but he hasn’t let that deter him from pursuing his basketball dreams.
*An earlier version of this story appeared in our winter sports magazine
About Your Author: Lynn Ault covers high school athletics (primarily Damonte Ranch High School) for Battle Born Preps. His wife is head of the math department for Damonte Ranch and both his kids graduated from Damonte. When not covering high school athletics, he is the youth pastor for Hope Community, a non-denominational church in south Reno.