Growing up on the mean streets of Gary, Indiana, which at one point had been known as the “murder capital of the United States,” Will Green had a basketball coach that helped to mold him as a young man and truly made a difference in his life.

“I’ve always had a basketball in my hand since 2nd grade,” Green says. “But I also had the best mentor and coach, Coach Carl Traicoff, who just meant the world to me. He was a special spirit for the sport and just for human development and making low-income kids believe they could do more than what we ever imagine that we could. And he did that through the game of basketball.”

It is with his late Coach Traicoff in mind that Coach Green, who will soon be starting his second year as varsity coach for the Madison La Follette girls’ basketball team, is trying to leave a lasting impact on his young Lancer women both on and off the court.

“The times have changed since I was a youngster. You really have to be in tune with your players’ mental/social/emotional makeup. You have to be in tune with these kids outside of the X’s and O’s if you want them to get anything out of the X’s and O’s,” Green tells Madison365. “It comes down to building relationships and letting these young people know that you will go through that brick wall for them and, hopefully, they will reciprocate that and be ready to go through that brick wall for coach.

Coach Will Green coaches his Madison La Follette girls basketball team.

“That takes time. I’ve only been there for a year and I’m trying to change the culture for everyone,” Green adds. “I’m looking forward to this upcoming season and I’m pretty excited about our La Follette girls. Basketball is a beautiful thing. It’s a place where you can come together and bond together as a family outside of your own family.”

People in Madison have been recognizing Green’s dedication as a great coach and mentor, but now the nation is getting to know about him. Green was recently chosen as a “Top-50” coach in U.S. Cellular’s nationwide 2017 Most Valuable Coach Fan Vote Contest, a campaign launched to highlight and recognize current head and assistant high school coaches who have made a profound impact on their schools and communities.

“A couple of individuals in the community nominated me for this contest and it went to the committee who picked me to be in the top-50,” Green says.

Screening judges selected Green for the “Top 50” after evaluating all nominees and determining that his leadership qualities and positive impact on his school and community stood out amongst the other nominees.

Off the court, Green is the founder and executive director of Mentoring Positives, a referral-based mentoring program that works with youth in the Worthington Park/Darbo area both individually and in groups, tailoring services to each kid’s needs.

Green has moved on in this national coaching contest to the public voting stage which will determine the “Final 15” coaches. Voting ends at noon on Oct. 9. You can vote here.

“You can vote every day. You just have to sign up with an e-mail and put your name in and then you can vote,” Green says.

Each of the Final 15 coaches will win $5,000 for their school. And U.S. Cellular, in partnership with Samsung, will honor the overall winner with a $50,000 community grant.

“I’m in 9th place right now, so I’m in the middle of the pack to be in that final 15,” Green says. “But I’d feel better about making it through if I was higher.”

Those final 15 coaches will face off next month in a brand-new voting process from Oct. 12-Nov. 14 to see who wins the $50,000 and a trip to Florida.

“This is probably the easiest fundraiser that anybody could ever support us with,” laughs Green. “So vote!”

“Seriously, though, this an amazing honor for me. There are so many amazing coaches and community members out there and here I am battling in the top 50. And now I’m in the top 15,” he adds. “Coaching and mentoring is what I do. It’s my life. I’m just excited to be recognized. I’m grateful for the love and support I’ve received already through social media.”