Carolina connection: Cousins emerging in Minot State backcourt

One of the most highlight-worthy plays of Minot State University’s basketball season came against Northland College on Nov. 18.

Freshman guard Dominique McDonald took an outlet pass, raced upcourt and lofted a lob from near the left hash mark between half court and the 3-point line. On the other end of the pass, junior E.J. Williams didn’t break stride as he took off from just inside the right block, snared the pass on his ascent and flushed the ball through the hoop with two hands.

It was a sequence that looked fluid and effortless, but required perfect timing and trust from McDonald to know that Williams – generously listed at 6-foot – would be able to execute the alley oop at full speed.

That trust has undoubtedly been fostered by hours spent on basketball courts together by the two cousins, both from Raleigh, N.C.

“We just know each other,” said McDonald, who played up on the older Williams’ AAU and rec league teams. “When we’re on the court together, the game moves a lot faster. We’re much better in transition.”

Williams and McDonald were last-minute pickups for the Beavers (2-7), signing and enrolling at MSU just about a week before classes started, first-year coach Matt Murken said.

But the late arrivals have been productive early for the Beavers.

McDonald, a shifty 6-foot, 175-pound pass-first point guard, has started eight of MSU’s nine games. He averages 7.4 points per game and a team-leading 3.1 assists – with his best game coming in a 21-point, five-assist performance against nationally-ranked Colorado Mines.

“He’s done a nice job as a true freshman point guard,” Murken said. “It’s not easy to know everybody’s spots and what they’re supposed to do and he’s done a good job of handling that.”

McDonald was the first to commit to MSU and Williams, who was also considering Norfolk State before the Division I school chose another recruit over him, followed shortly after.

“After I knew that I had to go D-II, it was a no-brainer that I was coming here to play with my cousin,” said Williams, who played last season at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, N.C.

Williams, powerfully built at 195 pounds, has played both guard positions for the Beavers and is second on the team with 9.7 points per game. He’s coming off a season-high 24 points against Bemidji State and has reached double figures in three straight contests.

“He’s a little bit older, probably more athletic than what Dominique is,” Murken said. “He’s kind of a strong guard. Really, those two guys – like with any new guys – it usually takes a semester to figure out what’s going on. They were forced into it a little bit earlier than that just because we needed some guards to play right away.”

They’ve done just that, with each averaging more than 22 minutes per game. With that experience and the players’ growing familiarity with MSU’s system, Murken said improvement is imminent.

“I feel like the more comfortable they get and the more they understand what we’re trying to do, the better they’re gonna play,” he said.

The Beavers travel to Minnesota Duluth on Friday and St. Cloud State (Minn.) on Saturday.