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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Woldeslassie: Men’s basketball’s future without Caleb Williams

Woldeslassie: Men’s basketball’s future without Caleb Williams

All year, questions have lingered around the Macalester men’s basketball team about whether star guard Caleb Williams ’24 would return for his year of COVID-eligibility or graduate. Before the Scots’ final game, Head Coach Abe Woldeslassie ’08 put those questions to rest: after four years at Macalester and three years on the basketball team, Williams will graduate. Despite Williams’ departure, however, Woldeslassie remains optimistic about the Scots’ future. 

Williams will enter the transfer portal, hoping to land a spot on a Division I team. He will leave Macalester after a season where he posted 41 points against the University of Minnesota and broke the Scots’ single-game scoring record, scoring 51 points against Concordia. He will graduate as the Scots’ third all-time leading scorer, reaching the achievement after just three years of play. 

Regardless of Williams’ status, though, the Scots had a game to play. With their coaches dressed in their best suits and ties, the Scots donned the orange and gray for the final time this season for a midafternoon matchup on the Doug Bolstorff Court against Augsburg University.

In their first meeting this season, the Auggies toppled the Scots in dramatic fashion, recovering from a late-game deficit to win in overtime by one point. In their farewell tilt, however, the Scots refused to fall the same way, putting on one of their better performances of the year to defeat the Auggies 79-65.

If Woldeslassie had known back in November that the Scots would finish their regular season with a dominant win over a decent team like Augsburg, he might have assumed that his squad was finishing the season as it had the past two seasons, jockeying for playoff position before another run at the MIAC championship. Instead, the Scots entered this game already eliminated from the playoffs but fighting to win just their 10th game of the season and finish the year as the 10th best team in the MIAC.

This outcome resulted from a brutal final stretch for the Scots. In their seven games before their Augsburg matchup, the Scots faced all six MIAC playoff teams, and one non-playoff team. They went 1-6 in that stretch, beating fifth-seeded Concordia College, and coming within one possession of beating fourth-seeded Hamline University and second-seeded Carleton College. Despite this result, Woldeslassie insisted team morale remained high to end the season.

“While yes, that’s heartbreaking, it also shows that we’re still fighting, we’re still connected,” Woldeslassie said. “There’s still buy-in, and there’s so much optimism going into this off-season.”

Woldeslassie has high expectations for the future of his team, even without Williams. His hope starts not with the players on the court, but the players who couldn’t be there. First to go was Badou Ba ’25, the Scots’ starting center, who missed the entire season due to injury.

“Last year, Badou was MIAC Defensive Player of the Year, so we certainly missed him big-time defensively,” Woldeslassie said. “Even as an offensive player, he improved so much from his freshman to sophomore year, and we believe he would have improved his sophomore to junior year, but next year, as a senior, he’ll get a chance to show that.”

Second was Noah Shannon ’26, the Scots’ starting power forward, who played 10 games before injuring his foot at the end of fall semester. With Shannon before winter break, the Scots went 5-5. Without him after the break, they went 5-10.

“Noah almost doubled his scoring from his freshman to sophomore year,” Woldeslassie said. “And [he] was leading us in rebounding and guarding one through five.”

Without their starting bigs, the Scots’ other source of optimism shone this season — Coby Gold ’25. Gold has another year of COVID-eligibility, but he still hasn’t decided if he will take it, even though he received senior honors before the Augsburg game. If he returns, Woldeslassie believes Gold can reach new heights in his final year.

“He’s improved so much as a defender since Noah went out with injury,” Woldeslassie said. “He’s now our leading rebounder. He’s leading the MIAC in assists. While voting hasn’t happened yet, I believe he’ll be All-Conference again. His senior year, who knows, maybe he could be a Player of the Year candidate and an All-Region candidate.”

Woldeslassie expressed gratitude for the fans who supported both the men’s and women’s teams this season and emphasized his hopes for next season. The Scots already have three new recruits committed to the program, and their roster should be healthy next season, which will both be necessary for a future without Williams.

“Even despite the losses, the way the team has stuck together and the buy-in has been just tremendous,” Woldeslassie said. “That’s something that maybe from the outside people might not see, but when you’re in the gym, you can feel it, you can see it, you know how bright the future is for the program.”


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