Willowridge girls varsity head coach Tiffany Collins
Willowridge girls varsity head coach Tiffany Collins calls plays from the sideline during the game. Credit: Photo by Jimmie Aggison/Houston Defender

Imagine growing up in a community, playing on the varsity basketball team at the local high school, going to college on a full-ride athletic scholarship, then having the opportunity to come back to that same community that helped raise you, to instill some of those positive values you learned on the way in the younger generation who now walk the same halls you once did.

In the words of the Notorious B.I.G. “It was all a dream.” But for Coach Tiffany Collins, it’s no longer a dream, it’s a living reality.

With the Willowridge High School girls’ varsity basketball program not being the basketball powerhouse it once was, coaching at Willowridge is more than just about basketball for Coach Collins.

“I try to teach my players resiliency, and try to show them that there is something else outside of this community,” said Collins. “While we have you, we want you to be the best person you can be and we want to teach you the skill set that you need to be a good citizen once you leave high school.”

Although she teaches resiliency, Collins too had to withstand some of the tough times with her team.

In 2017 the school was faced with a mold problem that forced students to attend classes at Marshall High School. This presented a different set of issues as players who needed tutorials would miss all of practice because the buses were only scheduled for certain times. Once this problem was resolved COVID hit, and many school systems across the nation shut down completely.

“Nobody really wanted to get involved with sports or socializing,” Collins says.

However, this didn’t stop Collins from teaching her team about resilience; getting through the tough times.

“Last year I was blessed with a good group of freshmen who you could see the skill set coming. We just needed a little more repetition, a little more time on the court. We needed to get stronger and more physical,” shared Collins.

Last season, the Willowridge girls’ varsity basketball program went 2-13, finishing at the bottom of their district. After another losing season, Collins said her players went to work.

“We probably played a basketball game every weekend. We were in the weight room every day. We were competing with boys in the weight room and on the track. This group really bought into what we were selling.”

Although they were a young team, the buy-in was real. The team went from eighth in the district the prior season, to third in the district with playoff intentions in the 2022-2023 season.

Led by two sophomores and a freshman in their starting five, Collins names Au’Rayona Seals, Natalie Greene and Madisen Moten as pivotal players as they made their playoff run.

Although the team fell short in the second round of playoffs, their youth will allow them to have many returning players continue competing as a unit next season. When asked about her team Coach Collins simply said, “I’m blessed to have this group.”