On Labor Day weekend, the Willman’s phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Coach after coach was calling to ask the same question: “Is Max there?”
The star hockey forward and lead scorer was a popular guy over the break; dozens of colleges and universities wanted to know if he could be persuaded to enroll.
“It was really hard for him to decide,” said his mother, Peyton Willman. “There were seven or eight different choices.”
For Max, though, the answer was clear: he wanted a place where he could continue to play at the highest levels, while also being challenged academically. Brown University in Rhode Island fit those criteria perfectly—and was located just an hour and a half from home. The fact that one of his friends and former South Shore Kings teammates was also committing to Brown was an added bonus.
“I chose Brown because it gave me the opportunity to play Division I hockey and more importantly receive a top-notch education,” Mr. Willman wrote in an email. “I hope to perform well on and off the ice and contribute as much as I can in trying to win a league championship.”
On Friday, Mr. Willman finalized his commitment to the Brown Bears in Williston Northampton’s Reed Campus Center.
Athletic Director Mark Conroy said having Mr. Willman go on to an Ivy League school spoke to his athletic and academic prowess and noted that the postgraduate was a “tremendous example of an outstanding student-athlete who took full advantage of opportunities here at Williston.”
Varsity hockey coach Derek Cunha agreed that Brown was the perfect choice for a stand-out player.
“As a postgrad he came in and was named captain,” Mr. Cunha said. “That speaks to his leadership skills, but also well he connects to our team. He’s a tremendous leader.”
Mr. Willman has had 21 goals and 18 assists over the past season. But Mr. Cunha said Mr. Willman’s play in the team’s 5-1 win over Westminster—the first such win over the Martlets in some 30 years—was particularly memorable.
“He just had two highlight reel goals where he got through the defensemen, faked the goalie, put it top corner, and just finished,” Mr. Cunha said. “As a hockey player, he’s a finisher, and in that game he really did a good job of that.”
Mr. Willman’s focus, drive, and success on the ice have made him a hot recruit, Mr. Cunha said—and the intensity of his suitors is only likely to increase. Although his signing on Friday means Mr. Willman will no longer be recruited by schools, two dozens teams from the National Hockey League have already started calling. Whether or not Mr. Willman has another big decision to make, though, will likely be decided during the NHL draft in June.