Nebraska women’s basketball assistant coach Tandem Mays’ relationship with head coach Amy Williams began long before Mays started coaching under Williams.
Mays played basketball for Northside High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Her team was ranked nationally and Williams was coaching at Oklahoma State when Mays began looking at potential colleges to play for. Williams tried to recruit Mays to the Cowboys and that’s when their relationship began.
“It was clear [Mays’] passion for the game,” Williams said. “She played with a lot of fire and energy. She was a great defender and really good about attacking the basket. I knew that she'd be a great fit for us.”
Despite Williams being drawn to Mays, Mays signed with the University of Tulsa. However, two years into Mays’ college career, Williams left Oklahoma State and took an assistant coaching position at Tulsa.
Williams commented on how she teases Mays often about how she tried to get away from her but it didn’t work.
“[Mays] tells me many years later that she doesn't look good in orange so that's why she wasn't going to go to Oklahoma State and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, all those hours of recruiting her and time invested in recruiting her and it came down to our colors,’” Williams said with a smile.
At Tulsa, Williams was also Mays’ position coach, so they developed a good relationship quickly. The two would practice one-on-one together because Mays always wanted to get in extra shots and Williams rebounded for her.
“I knew very early on what a high IQ player she was, and just really a sports buff and just always was talking sports and talking the game with us,” Williams said. “When I got my first head coaching job at Rogers State University, she was the first person I thought of to come over and be able to be a part of my coaching staff.”
They’ve been together ever since, as Mays has now been an assistant coach for Williams for 12 years. The transition from player to coach was smooth for Mays since she had already built that connection with Williams and she enjoyed learning about other sides of basketball, like recruiting.
Working with Williams has been a continuous learning experience for Mays. Her favorite thing she’s picked up from Williams is the love and passion that she coaches with.
“Just that love that she has for not only the program, but for our players and just believing in what our goal is and what our dream is but always putting the players first, it's just been awesome,” Mays said.
Mays sees many similarities between coaching and playing, but she enjoys coaching even more than she did playing.
“With coaching you still get that competitive spirit,” she said.
She enjoys being able to instill the knowledge she gained when she was playing in her players and seeing them fight through challenges.
Williams was quick to point out the amount of growth she’s watched Mays go through on and off the court throughout the years.
“I've been with her long enough to see her learn how to drive and get a driver's license for the first time and get her first credit card,” Williams said.
Mays’ knack for speaking is one of the skills that impresses Williams the most.
“She doesn't talk a ton, but when she does, everyone listens,” Williams said.
As Williams has watched Mays grow, there’s been many proud moments for Williams, both on and off the court. Williams discussed the moment she watched tears stream down Mays’ face as they were cutting down nets at the Conference USA championship tournament when they were at Tulsa.
However, the proudest moment for Williams came when Mays took guardianship of her nephew.
“To take that responsibility and to watch her really grow up and be responsible for another life and having to make sure he was cared for, it's been very rewarding for me to kind of watch that,” Williams said.
Although Mays doesn’t have plans to take on a head coaching position, she has a passion for her role as an assistant coach because she can still voice her opinions and keep basketball as a big part of her life.
“The most rewarding part is just seeing everything come together,” Mays said. “You always have a vision for how things should go and how you want them to go and just kind of seeing some of that stuff play out over the years is always fun.”
This article was edited at 3:53 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14 to correct Amy Williams' position while at the University of Tulsa.