CCRI’s Williams A High D-1 Talent?
Thursday, August 16, 2012
He’s living the dream. Not quite the way that he imagined it, but CCRI men’s basketball star guard Desmond Williams is living the dream.
Williams is a 6’-6” shooting guard heading into his sophomore season with the Knights. He led his team all the way to the Division Two Junior College National Championship game last spring where his team lost. This year he hopes to take CCRI back to the championship game and win it.
Desmond Williams has basketball in his blood. A native of Torrington, Connecticut, his uncle Murray played for the UConn Huskies from 1987-1991 and was part of the school’s 1988 NIT championship team. Desmond’s brother Jordan Williams is a 6’-10” forward who played at the University of Maryland and is now a member of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.
“Kobe Bryant has always been my favorite player,” said Desmond Williams. “But I liked MJ, Magic and LeBron. But my biggest role model has always been my brother. I’ve always looked up to him and tried to follow in his footsteps.”
Like his brother Jordan, Desmond Williams always dreamed of playing big-time college basketball. “Villanova was always my dream school,” he said. “For no particular reason. I’ve just always liked that team.”
In high school, Williams possessed the talent to play division one basketball and was being recruited by a number of D-1 programs including the University of Rhode Island. Rams’ assistant Preston Murphy recruited Williams who was reportedly offered a spot on the URI team by former head coach Jim Baron. However, Williams failed to qualify academically and had to explore other options.
“I was looking into junior colleges and almost went to Harcum College down in Philly before Anthony Henry told me about CCRI,” Williams said. “He told me it was a great place to play and introduced me to coach [Rick] Harris. I called coach to see if he had a spot on his team for me and he said ‘yes’.”
As a freshman last season, Williams averaged 21 points per game shooting 47% from the field, 39% from three and 80% from the free throw line. “He could have averaged over 30 per game for us,” said coach Rick Harris. “But in our system, he only gets about 10-14 shots per game. We like to utilize everyone, work the ball inside and Desmond is very unselfish and okay with that.”
Williams received many awards last season and was named an NJCAA Division Two First Team All-American. As a result of that sensational freshman campaign, he has gone from being a mid-major Division 1 recruit to a high-major Division 1 recruit.
“He’s got about 25-35 schools looking at him right now,” said Harris. “Before he came to CCRI he had offers to go to play at URI and the College of Charleston. Now he has K-State, Memphis, Washington State, St. Bonaventure, UTEP, Middle Tennessee State, Iona, URI and UAB among the schools looking at him.”
UAB could be an interesting fit for Williams. Robert Ehsan is in his first season as an assistant coach for the Blazers. He recruited Jordan Williams to Maryland under then head coach Gary Williams. It was then that he became familiar with Desmond.
In addition to that familiarity, the University of Alabama Birmingham isn’t too far from Atlanta where Jordan Williams now plays for the Hawks.
But don’t count out some other schools like our very own University of Rhode Island. Williams stopped by URI Tuesday on an unofficial visit and he left very impressed with the new coaching staff. “I really like head coach Dan Hurley and his brother Bobby. I think they’re going to take that program in the right direction and have a great future,” he said.
Former Rams’ coach Jim Baron has also reportedly told Williams he has a scholarship at Canisius if he wants one. Williams likes Baron’s son Billy Baron who recently transferred to Canisius and wouldn’t mind playing with him in western New York.
“I just talked to coach Harris the other day about this and I’ll probably make a decision on a school sometime early next year in January or February,” Williams said. He plans on visiting some schools in September and October with the hopes of being able to narrow down his list of potential schools. "Wherever it is, I want it to be a place where I have the chance to play right away because I'll be a junior and only have two years to play."
In the meantime, he has completed some summer courses at CCRI as he tries to take care of business academically to that he will be eligible to play at a big-time Division 1 program.
What’s also interesting about Williams spending time at CCRI’s Warwick campus is the company he has been keeping on the hardwood. Providence College recruit Ricky Ledo has been playing pick-up games with Williams and others at CCRI. Ledo’s future remains in flux as he awaits a decision on his status from the NCAA’s clearinghouse.
We laid out Ledo’s options earlier this week here on GoLocalProv.com depending upon the news he receives from the clearinghouse. One of them could potentially see Ledo wearing the green and gold of the Knights.
“We haven’t really talked about that,” said Williams. “I certainly hope things work out for Ricky. He deserves to play at Providence this year.”
But what if that is not an option for Ledo? Would Williams like to share the court with the talented guard? “Absolutely,” he said. “He’s so athletic, he can shoot. He’s helped me a lot by just playing with me.”
With or without Ledo, Desmond Williams and the CCRI Knights will be one of the top-ranked teams in the NJCAA Division Two preseason polls and a favorite to get back to the championship game.
“The first day of practice this fall we’ll lay out our long term goal which is to get back to the championship game to win it this time,” said 7th-year head coach Rick Harris. “But that will be the last time we talk about it because we have to take things day by day. Our guys have to understand that we’re going to have a target on our backs this year.”
Regardless, the Knights should be very strong again this year because they have a deep roster that is highlighted by a superstar like Williams. “If you’re going to make a run like we did last year, you need a special talent like Desmond,” Harris said. “Teams that go deep into the playoffs usually have a D-1 caliber player.”
For now, Williams will simply look forward to the upcoming season which he hopes can bring him and his teammates as much joy as last season did. “That was such a great experience last year,” he said. “In all my life I had never been on a national stage like that and it was really cool. Playing for CCRI has been ideal for me.”
The Vin Cullen Field House in Warwick may not exactly be The Pavilion or the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. And the Northeast District in the NJCAA may not exactly be the Big East Conference. But that doesn’t matter much to Desmond Williams who is making the most of the opportunity he has.