She is efficient. She is a clutch scorer. She has basketball I.Q. She is competitive. She is a leader by nature. She is a demanding defender. She brings laughter to her teammates. She is a critical part of the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team.
She is De’Ja Wills.
The 5-foot-9 senior guard was raised in Anderson, Ind., and it was at Anderson High School where her name first went down in the record books. With 1,127 career points, she ranks first all-time in Madison County (sixth in Indiana High School Athletic Association history). In her senior year, she led Anderson to a 24-3 record as she averaged 18.3 points, 4.2 assists and 3.5 steals per game.
When making the decision where she would further her education, there was a pretty clear answer; EMU.
“I chose EMU, because I felt like it was a perfect match for me.” Wills said. “I liked the university, and I felt the love from the coaching staff and players.”
Wills’ tenure with the Eagles has been one of growth and development. Coming in under a new administration in her freshman year, there was a struggle and a search to find where her piece fit in the puzzle.
“At first I was trying to find my role on the team.” Wills said. “It was hard for me as a first-year player because everyone was new.”
Since then, Wills has found a spot on the squad and come to enjoy her time with the Eagles. Her favorite thing about her team is simply the team. “We’re like a sisterhood.” Wills said.
The difference between Wills the freshman and Wills the upperclassman is she now knows the role she plays on the Eagles’ team. According to Coach Ann Marie Gilbert, her biggest improvements over the past three years have been confidence and defense.
“She is able to create plays for herself and throw in the extra pass when it’s needed. Gilbert said. “She is also one of the better defensive players on this team.”
So far this season Wills has lead the Eagles in two categories. Her .328 three-point percentage sits atop all others, and her .778 percentage from the charity stripe is also a team-best this season.
“She’s one of our best shooters and can make clutch shots when we need them.” teammate Kristin Thomas said.
As the season progresses, Gilbert is looking for Wills to take the necessary steps to stay healthy, because her role on the team is just that crucial.
“She understands what I want as a coach. She is a natural leader.” Gilbert said. “She has a lot of good things to offer her teammates off the court as well. Whenever someone is down, she takes the extra step to give them some encouragement.”
As a teammate, Wills is appreciated for her ability and willingness to uplift the rest of her team.
“She’s vocal, and she’ll communicate.” Thomas said. “She helps direct and lead on the court as well.”
When game day rolls around, Wills has a small, yet interesting routine she follows. It all starts with a power nap, which is ended with some music by Lil’ Wayne. She then makes her way to the locker room where she makes an effort to breakout with a dance and then her iPod shifts to Nicki Minaj.
Wills began her basketball career in the third grade. Since then, she has come to love the team aspect of the sport.
“I like the togetherness of the team.” Wills said. “Everyone working together trying to accomplish one goal, and that’s winning a championship.”
In her spare time, Wills likes to play the Wii and is waiting the arrival of ‘MJ: The Experience,’ which is one of the newer games for the Wii. She also has a hidden talent that none of her teammates expected upon meeting her; she can rap.
After watching her glide up and down the court, you also probably would not guess she’s clumsy either, but she admits to it.
“I am so clumsy!” Wills said. “I’m the type of person who will be walking down the sidewalk and just fall for no reason.”
Wills is majoring in Psychology. Upon completion of the program at EMU, she plans to attend graduate school where she will work toward a Master’s in Sport Management.