Note: This is the first installment of a series of interviews with former Davidson basketball players from different eras of program history. My talk with Will ended up being so long and interesting that I had to break this article into two parts. Here is the link to Part I.
I had the pleasure recently of getting to chat with former Davidson basketball player Will Archambault, and this was our conversation. We discussed the paths his career has taken since graduation, basketball in Canada, Steph Curry, the run that Will’s team made to the Elite Eight in 2008, and much more.
As a player, Will was a 6’6” Guard/Forward out of Montreal, Quebec. He played at Davidson from 2006-2010, a stretch of time which included Davidson’s incredible run to the Elite Eight. For his career he averaged 8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, as well as shooting 35% from three. Here is the rest of his story:
Spencer: What was it like playing high school basketball with [former Davidson Wildcats] Max Paulhus Gosselin and Nik Cochran, and then all three you taking your talents to Davidson after high school?
Will: I played with Paulhus for 1 year in high school, but I didn’t get a chance to play with Nik Cochran.
What was the age gap between you three for that to happen, because you definitely played with them at Davidson?
There was actually a 2 year gap between Nik and I. Actually there is only a 1 year difference between Paulhus and I. It was nice playing with him at the Cégep*. I don’t really remember much from those days other than the fact that Paulhus was crazy on the court. He was as nuts on defense as he was at Davidson. He was renowned for his defense, and was pretty much getting national attention for the way he was playing. He did have that same energy when he was back in high school. I’m pretty sure he got into Davidson because of the energy that he brought on the court, and his leadership as well. All of these kinds of traits were present with Max when he was in high school, and that’s one of the reasons that he had so much success in college.
So was your high school a boarding school type of place? How did that really work?
Actually our high school was a regular one. The way the educational system is in Quebec… I’m actually going to give you a quick history on this. High school goes up to grade 11 in Quebec, and after that you pretty much have a prep school for 2-3 years prior to going to university. Typically what normal students would do is they would do 2 years of Cégep and three years at university, totaling the same amount of years that Americans go to school.
Except when you are a basketball player, one of the things that the guys did was extend their stay at the prep school level just to get exposure from schools in the states. They also wanted to play ball longer, so some even extended it to 3-4 years at the prep level, and played 3-4 years at the university level – just to play more ball. But I ended up playing only two years in Cégep, so when I got to Davidson, I was a year older than all of the other guys in my year. So I did a total of 13 years prior to going to university. It’s not really a boarding school because we all still live where we used to live – it’s like a prep school right after high school.
Max [Paulhus Gosselin] played at the Cégep level for 3 years, and Nik [Cochran] played for 3 years as well. So if I were to have played for the 3 years, I would have played with Nik during my last year and his first year.
Okay that makes so much more sense now. So, I don’t know how much you’ve kept up with the Davidson program over the last couple of seasons, but we are obviously in the Atlantic 10 conference now. When you played at Davidson, they were in the Southern Conference – can you speak at all to the growth of the program, the transition to the bigger conference, and what changes you have noticed?
I have been following Davidson quite a bit, especially after I graduated. I tried to stay in touch with some of the coaching staff and some of the players. I have been watching the games, but I haven’t watched them that often. From what I can understand, the pace and also the size of the opponents in the A10 – theres a huge difference between that and the Southern Conference. The fact that they are having so much success in the A10 has to do especially with the mentality that Coach McKillop instills in his team at the beginning of the season, and the types of players that he recruits. This all has to do with an accumulation of 20 years-plus worth of great players that have played through the program. Obviously the 2008 run attracted a lot of good talent, with Steph Curry. It has more to do with the fact that Coach McKillop instills hard work and great habits into his players, and the fact that the guys believe in the system. Thats one of the reasons why Davidson is the program that is it right now.
I compare them a little bit to the Butler situation. Butler played for a smaller conference for many years, and they had such success and grew into a really good team, and climbed conferences over a period of close to 5-10 years – now they are in the Big East. I can see Davidson doing something similar to that, especially with the kinds of players that are attracted to Davidson – you see guys like Kalinoski who developed into a really good player, and DeMon Brooks right before that. You’ve got Jack Gibbs playing his brains out, which is incredible to see. It just shows you how much Coach McKillop can attract talent, and that he wasn’t a one-hit-wonder with recruiting Steph. I would say that the program is still rising, and that Davidson is moving in the right direction for many years to come.
I think that the “Steph Curry Affect” is a real thing. Now we are starting to see kids who wear number 30, wear Under Armor, and just want be like Steph. Similar to the Nash and Carter affect, these kids look at Davidson because they want to play for Coach McKillop and make the same jump that Steph did.
That is a great comparison. It is at a smaller scale obviously, but its pretty insane when you think about it – all the kids wanting to come to Davidson because of Steph and what he’s accomplished in the NBA. Its publicity that no money can pay for. It is great to see as an alumnus, but also as a former basketball player from the Davidson program.
Just to wrap up with a final question here, can you speak at all about the run to the Elite Eight in 2008, and what it was like to be a part of that?
It was a memorable experience – it has already been eight years. Wow, I can’t believe its been 8 years.
Playing at that stage, Davidson hadn’t won a game in the NCAA Tournament in years – Coach McKillop hadn’t won a game either. Obviously we wanted to win a game in the tournament for our team and we wanted to win one for Coach McKillop and the Davidson Wildcats. After winning our first game, we knew that we could get the ball rolling and keep pounding through the opponents. No team was too scary or big for us to conquer. We really did show it by toppling Georgetown by coming back from an 18 point deficit. It just showed the perseverance, not only from our star player, but also from all of the role players – guys like Thomas Sanders, Andrew Lovedale, Max, Steve [Rossiter]. These guys played their hearts out during those games. The fact that our team had suck good chemistry and glued and meshed so well during that time, and we peaked really at the right moment, it just gave us the advantage over the bigger teams that had bigger, stronger, faster, and apparently better players. It was just insane. Other than that, obviously playing at the level that we did gave us the opportunity to play on a huge stage. In Detroit we played in front of a hundred thousand in the middle of a football field. How many times in your life can you say you played in front of a hundred thousand people? It doesn’t happen that often. It was just a very memorable experience, and something that I’m sure none of the guys are going to forget.
Steph Curry was one of your teammates on that 2007-08 team. Have you gotten to spend time with him recently or have any stories to share?
He is a genuinely nice guy, even after getting drafted. If you give him a call, he’s going to try to answer as soon as he can. He’s still going to hook you up with tickets and hang out with you. I think it was last year I headed up to Toronto with Max Paulus and a couple of my friends, and Steph hung out with us after the game and we played ping pong at a bar for about 5 hours. Which is pretty crazy considering he was going to be the reigning MVP and the NBA Champion. He still takes the time to answer phone calls and keep up with his old friends, which just shows that kind of character he has.
Thank you so much for your time! Any last thoughts or comments?
Nah! I just want to thank you, especially for doing this article. I know all the other guys are going to appreciate answering some of these questions and reminiscing a bit about some of the stuff back in the days. Keep doing it, it’s pretty good!
*Cégep stands for the French phrase “Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel”, and was originally abbreviated “CEGEP”. It is used to refer to the post-secondary education institutions that bridge the gap between high school and college in Quebec. Here is some more information on Cégep.