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Athlete of the Week: Cody Willett, Canton C-Hawks

Cody Willett helped build Canton back into a basketball program over the last four years.

“I’ve been here for six years, and Cody’s been with me for four. We started out by rebuilding the whole program. So, he’s been part of that. The last few years we’ve had winning records when he became a junior and senior. Sophomore year, I think we won eight games. In the past, Canton hadn’t won a lot of games until the last few years. The program is staring to come along, they are buying into it, and he’s been a great asset to the program,” says head coach Paul Anderson.

Cody has enjoyed the game of basketball since he was a kid, and spent a lot of time in the summer playing basketball in his driveway. When he first played YMCA basketball in the second grade, his love for the game grew, and he has continued to play all of his life. While playing for C-Hawks, he’s shown the ability to be a leader, and has enjoyed every minute of his time when suits up in blue and yellow.

“I’ve loved Canton all the way through, probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball was with my school because I had a big opportunity to lead. I felt comfortable because I never felt under pressure, and had freedom to do what I wanted to, and give input,” tells Willet.

Leading has become natural for Willett, as his goal is to help make his team, and others better before himself.

“Make sure everyone knows what is going on. One thing as a Class A school, you know that some of your teammates are there to help the team. Aything I can do to help make the game easier for them, or help them understand or have fun playing the game, I try to do,” says Willett.

The C-Hawks are a close team and had a lot of chemistry. Willett played with his fellow starters since his sophomore year, and are very good friends on and off the court. Anderson shares that as big as Cody’s impact is on his team, it has become greater when he teaches future C-Hawks that soon may be suiting up for Canton’s varsity squad on the court someday.

“A lot of young kids like to hang out and watch him. He comes into summer ball camps and workouts with them. He does a lot for our program on and off the floor.”

His ability to teach young kids has also allowed him to be a coach on the floor.

“Cody does a lot of coaching out there. He is one of all the kids in my 25 or 30 years of coaching, that is one of the smarter kids on the floor. He can coach, come back to the huddle and say, ‘let’s do this or that,’ and we will do a lot of what he says,” adds Anderson.

Willett’s work ethic reflects his personality. He loves the game, has fun, doesn’t complain, fight, argue, or get mad. Anderson’s job on the sideline becomes simpler when the 6’4″ senior forward takes the floor.

“Easy because he is a hard worker. He will do things in the offseason and go to camps, and play with AAU teams. This is probably his only week off since back in December. Now, he will take some weeks off, and start working out and getting ready for college,” says Anderson.

What do his teammates enjoy about Cody? Anderson says they are going miss his presence on the court.

“They love the guy. They are going to miss him. Young guys are talking right now, ‘Who is going to fill his shoes?’ That’s a big role to fill, and we’ve got kids that can fill a lot spots already, but because of his size, rebounding, and shooting ability, that’s going to tough to fill. He is awesome.”

As big of a team player Willett is, he is a great basketball player. His offensive game flourishes, as he has an ability to handle the ball, pass, shoot from the perimeter and long range, and, then, creates moves to get to the basket. Developing these skills has taken a lot of hard work, and as a result, the senior’s game has matured a lot over the last four years.

“I’ve gotten smarter, and made better decisions on the court. The past couple years, I tried to cut back on my turnovers, and that’s helped me quite a bit. I think I see myself as someone who handled tough situations in games. Tried to get team through it and make tough decision when needed,” answers Willet.

Willet led Canton to an 18-5 record this year, and the C-Hawks fell short of making it to the state A tournament by losing to Tea in regions. However, he understands the impact he has made on Canton’s basketball program.

“Really sad the season is over. We lost a close game to finish the season. We came a long ways from where we were, and I don’t think it’s any reason to hang our heads because we lost the last game. You have to look at the big picture. We had a good season, and how much better we have gotten since we started.”

Willett will go on to play next season at Mount Marty, and his career at Canton has helped prepare him for the future.

“It’s (basketball) taught me to be a leader. When I need to step up and make something happen, I have to do that, When something goes wrong, I’ve learned to take blame, too,” says Willett.

“I think his work ethic in basketball has shown him what he can do on the court through the offseason. Knowing that he can become an all-state type player by his hard work, and I think that will lead to whatever type of job he goes into. I know he would like to go into engineering, and I always think he needs to stay in the college level and start coaching, recruiting as an assistant and work his way up because I think he would enjoy that,” tells Anderson.

Cody used to participate in cross country and track before focusing on basketball. He still plays in the band and in jazz band. He really enjoys engineering and hopes to learn more about it next year while he plays basketball at Mount Marty.

Photo via Sam Tastad/ESPN 99.1

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