Chaz Williams has heard the skeptics who say he is too small to be a big-time college basketball player, but he continues to prove them wrong at each stop in his career.
Size is a concern to everyone it seems, except the Brooklyn native and University of Massachusetts junior point guard.
“Most people still have their doubts,” Williams, who is generously listed at 5-foot-9, said. “Some people are going to think I can’t do things and some are going to think I can do [things]. It’s not for me to prove them wrong or prove them right, but do my job.”
The former Bishop Ford star did that and more in his first season at the University of Massachusetts after transferring from Hofstra and sitting a year due to National Collegiate Athletic Association transfer rules. As a sophomore, he led U-Mass to a 25–12 record and a spot in the National Invitational Tournament semifinals. It was U-Mass’ first winning season since 2008, and just it’s fourth of more than 20 wins since current Kentucky coach John Calipari left in 1996 after reaching the national semifinals.
Williams, who won a New York State Class-A Federation title at Bishop Ford, averaged 16.9 points, 6.2 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game for U-Mass last season. That performance earned him a first-team all-conference selection in the Atlantic 10. Still, his team being picked by the league’s coaches to finished fifth in the conference this season matters more to Williams. U-Mass was selected 12th and came in eighth a year ago.
“We were once at the bottom of the pack and nobody knew about us and nobody talked about us,” Williams said.
He is a big reason why that has changed. Williams’s work ethic, heart, and motor allow him to have the impact he does. He played the most minutes on the team, averaging 34.9 per contest last year. U-Mass coach Derek Kellogg is hoping to control Williams’s minutes to keep him fresh, but says no matter how often he is on the floor, his energy and personality are contagious.
“His demeanor and his ability to work and get after things really brought another dimension to our team and program,” Kellogg said. “His energy, his charisma and his leadership qualities are definitely what separated him. He has that New York City toughness and Brooklyn swagger.”
Williams is looking forward to showing that off and hopefully hoisting the Atlantic 10 championship trophy in front of his hometown fans at the Barclays Center, home of the conference tournament, come March. Doing that and earning a NCAA tournament berth would signal the next step in his career and the continuation of U-Mass resurgence with him as the driving force.
“I always wanted to play a championship game in Brooklyn, a real meaningful one,” Williams said. “We want to do everything in our power to get there and succeed.”
Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.