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Williams eager to contribute after long journey to Texas Tech

Junior guard had to find himself as a student in order to reach his Division-I dreams

Posted: January 15, 2013 - 7:49pm  |  Updated: January 16, 2013 - 1:33am
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Texas Tech's Jamal Williams, Jr. has faced a path of adversity on way to playing for the Red Raiders. (Zach Long)  Zach Long
Zach Long
Texas Tech's Jamal Williams, Jr. has faced a path of adversity on way to playing for the Red Raiders. (Zach Long)
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Just days after Jamal Williams played some his best minutes of the season, Texas Tech coach Chris Walker provided insight into a possible impetus for the strong performance.

“I think it had something to do with his dad being in town,” Walker said, “so I can’t take credit for it. His dad was here so he was pretty pumped and excited.”

Williams' father, Jamal Williams, Sr., made the trip from Brooklyn, N.Y., to see his son score a team-high 11 points and play air-tight defense on Kansas star freshman Ben McLemore. Though it wasn’t enough for Tech to win, it was a solid outing from a player who had missed part or all of the last five games with a nagging groin injury.

But having his dad on hand watching him play in the uniform of a major university was meaningful to Williams for more reasons than basketball could explain. It allowed a son to show his father what the next step in a long journey looks like.

“My father was always tough on me,” Williams said. “He tried to get me to see that it’s not all about the basketball. It’s about the books. Education is going to get you there. It’s going to take you further than basketball. I didn’t know that growing up, but as I’ve grown up now, I see that.”

Jamal, Sr., a single dad raising three sons, works as a sheriff’s deputy in New York to provide for his family. His is “a tough love” approach, Williams, Jr. said. With all the wrong paths he sees kids go down during his day job, he has worked to make sure his don't do the same.

“If you look up ‘role model’ in the dictionary or on Wikipedia, Jamal, Sr. is right there,” said Cedric Brown, Williams’ coach at Lake Land College in Illinois. “In the streets of Brooklyn, kids can go either way. With all the things he instilled in Jamal, along with Jamal’s grandmother, it’s huge.”

Even with the strong support of his father at his back, academics initially came as a struggle for Williams. As he finished high school, he watched fellow top Brooklyn players like Erving Walker (Florida), Darryl “Truck” Bryant (West Virginia) and Vincent Council (Providence) ride out of town with Division-I scholarships. Williams warranted one as a player, but as a student he had ground to make up.

He went to a prep school, but he wasn’t able to get on track there. That’s when he met Brown.

“He put all his faith in me,” Williams said, “and look where I am today.”

Brown, a native of The Bronx, met Williams during a showcase event in New York. When the two spoke, Brown knew he was getting a player who understood how important academics would be if he had any chance of reaching the highest level of college basketball. But chances were running out. Williams knew that, too.

So Williams latched on to the tutoring sessions, the study tables and other academic help Brown, a former Division-I assistant, knows players coming into the junior-college ranks need.

“And Jamal bought into everything we were doing,” Brown said.

On the court, Williams excelled at the point-guard position, helping to guide Lake Land to its best two-year stretch in Brown’s tenure. More importantly, he found his groove as a student, earning an associate’s degree with a near 3.0 grade-point average. 

He was finally ready for his Division-I ride.

“By God’s blessing I made it here,” Williams said. “I’m just thankful for everything.”

Williams has continued to gain steam academically. Brown said he recently heard from Jamal, Sr. that his son was logging A’s and B’s since arriving in Lubbock.

Not every step has been easy. Williams isn’t close to his family, and being 2,000 miles away can be trying. No more so than in late October, when Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast, hammering his home state of New York.

Focusing became difficult as Williams awaited word on conditions back home. Fortunately, all of his family was safe, and Jamal, Sr. wasted little time getting his son’s focus back on track.

“He said, ‘Don’t worry about anything. Just focus on school. Everyone’s good,’” Williams recalled of a conversation with his father. “I was just happy to hear that.”

His studies in place, Williams believes he can be a solid contributor — he is averaging 5.2 points and 2.5 rebounds as Tech enters today’s road contest at Oklahoma — for a young team still searching for its footing. Staying in the rotation will be a grind. Then again, so was the journey to this place.

“I say it to him just like I say it to the rest of the guys,” Walker said, “you can’t afford to come out and not play with energy every day. Your talent level doesn’t dictate that. You’re not 6-foot-6. You don’t put your elbow in the rim. You don’t have a jump shot that doesn’t miss.

“So you have to be a dirty-work, lunch-pail guy every single day.”

In other words, the type of player Jamal, Sr. would be quick to root for.

To comment on this story: 

nick.kosmider@lubbockonline.com

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george.watson@lubbockonline.com

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College basketball

Who: Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Lloyd Noble Center, Norman, Okla.

Records: Tech 8-6, 1-2 in Big 12 play; Oklahoma 11-3, 2-0

Last time out: Kansas 60, Tech 46; Oklahoma 77, Oklahoma State 68

Last meeting: Tech 65, Oklahoma 47 last season in Lubbock

TV: Big 12 Network/ESPN3.com (KMYL-14; Suddenlink 6; AT&T U-Verse 14; Dish Network 14)

Radio: KTTU 104.3

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This was an example of what readers want !

Not every players father comes to town against Kansas, but I like to know something about the team/players I'm rooting for. Football has over 100 guys, but a hoops team is small enough/season long enough, that we should get at least one story like this about every player on the team, coaches too. I enjoyed the article, and found a reason to root for the player/team more than before. Thanks Nick.

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Great story

Thanks for the great story! Congratulations Jamal on putting in the hard work to get where you are today. You have earned it. We'll be pulling for you.

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