Faith and family: Loss inspires a basketball star’s journey back home

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For Monmouth junior Will Carius, basketball has always been more than just a game. 

“For as long as I can remember my dream was to get a full ride scholarship to play basketball somewhere,” Carius said. 

Will expressed an interest in the sport at a young age, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Will’s father Brant played at Rock Island High School, and his grandpa Allan played for Moline. Quad City basketball was in his blood, and it was his mom Elizabeth that helped pave his path to stardom. 

“She saw our love for that and 100% she looked up videos, looked up books, looked up drills to try to help us get better,” Carius said.  “She learned the sport with us, but helped teach us the sport at the same time.” 

Elizabeth had always dedicated herself to her family, home schooling Will and his younger siblings, teaching from the textbook and from the heart.

“She spent every waking moment with those kids teaching them morals and ethics, and instilling all the values you see in them. She did all that,” said Will’s father Brant Carius.  

She did all that and more, always encouraging her kids to give it their all, even if it meant giving a little constructive criticism. 

“I’ll never regret any of those conversations or even the ones where she was getting on my butt in the car after a bad game,” Will reminisced. “I’ll never regret any of that, because I know it was coming out of a place of love and it made me better in the long run.” 

But in all her teachings it was one message that resonated above the rest. 

“That’s one thing my mom instilled in us was our faith..,” Will said.  “So first when anything like that or any success comes to me it’s all glory goes to God honestly.

That faith would be tested early on. In September, 2010 Elizabeth was diagnosed with breast cancer, and after a long fight, passed away in 2015.

“Right before she passed away she was still trying to get on us and teach us things when she should’ve been worried about her own health she was still trying to help us out,” said Will. 

Brant added, “the biggest thing to carry us through that was faith, knowing where she was and that she was with God. And the second thing was basketball. We had something to focus on. Two nights a week we could forget about everything else.”

It was Will’s senior year at Pleasant Valley High School, and it was in the moment that he leaned heavily on his faith, family, and the sport he loved. 

“It’s something to help me cope a ton, and I defintely had some great teammates on the team that helped get me through it as well.” 

“He had his whole following with the family [and] extended family that come to almost every game,” said Brant. “We’ve got that book and there’s a picture in there where everyone’s wearing pink shirts after my wife had passed away…And for most games that whole group was always there.” 

Will would go on to help lead the Spartans to a third place finish at the state tournament and was a first-team all-state selection for the second straight year. With the accolades came the offers, and Will decided on Northern Michigan University. He had fulfilled his lifelong dream of receiving a scholarship to play basketball.

But it wouldn’t be long before tragedy struck again. During his sophomore season Will lost both of his grandpa’s, Joe and Allan. Once again he was faced with adversity, this time from 8 hours away.

“Both of those combined just really made me realize how much I was missing being home and being around my family,” said Will. “And them both passing away made me realize how much I should cherish those I still have around here.” 

He began the process of transferring, so he could be closer to family and help them through the grieving process. While there was a list of potential colleges, Will chose to carry on a family legacy at Monmouth College, donning the same Fighting Scots’ jersey that his dad and grandpa Allan had wore before him. 

“That really warmed my heart, because I wanted him to go there, but I didn’t want to push him into that, so I let him make that decision,” said Brant. “…I was just ecstatic about that. “

Will added, “Seeing my family members’ faces when I told them I was going to come back to school even closer it just reaffirmed the decision even more.” 

The Fighting Scots welcomed Will with open arms. Head coach Todd Skrivseth says he was elated to have Carius join the squad. 

“Once everything was in place it was kind of like winning the lotto. As a coach he’s a guy you love to have in your program; you love to be around every day. He’s your best player, he’s your hardest worker, he’s one of the most coachable guys, tremendous student, represents your program well across campus and in the community, so it was a good day when we found out he was coming.” 

\Will has delivered since his arrival, leading the team in points and rebounds. But that pales in comparison to what he accomplished at the start of the new year.

On January 2, 2019 against Grinnell College Will put on a performance that had never been seen in program history. Carius shot 24-26 from the floor, adding 18 rebounds, scoring a Monmouth single-game record 62 points shattering the old mark of 52. And he did it all in front of his family. 

“It was awesome. That’s a night I’ll never forget,” said Brant.  “Jokingly I texted him earlier that day and said ‘You going to go for 50 tonight?’ And he sent me a text back and said ‘haha.’ He says ‘I’ll try, but I don’t think I’ll be anywhere close to that.’ ” 

And if you ask Will, he’ll say he had his biggest fan right there with him. 

“We know she’s not gone for good. She’s always going to be there watching the games still.” 

Brant says while the performance was spectacular, he’s even more proud of the man his son has become. “I couldn’t be prouder, and I owe that all to my wife…Through faith and strength, we’re making it through it. And basketball’s a big part of that.” 

Will is set to graduate in 2020 with a business degree and hopes to continue to play basketball professionally. 

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