Saturday, October 18, 2003

Williams, Bearcats ready for fresh starts


Transfer hopes to help UC rebound from 17-12 season

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The University of Cincinnati Bearcats began preparations for a new season this morning at Midnight Madness on a brand new floor in a newly named arena with a cast of five new players they hope will eliminate the shortcomings that produced a disappointing 17-12 record last season.

Of the five new players who ran onto the floor in Fifth Third Arena at Shoemaker Center - James White, Robert Whaley, Mike Pilgrim, Asrangue Souleymane and Nick Williams - the 6-foot-10 Whaley has received the most attention because of his potential to dominate at the center position. But Williams, a junior point guard who transferred from Chipola (Fla.) College, could be the most crucial to the Bearcats' success.

"He's got really explosive speed," UC defensive coordinator Andy Kennedy said. "One of the things I think he's going to bring to our team is the ability to get into the lane and create problems for the defense."

That's a dimension that UC was sorely lacking last season with Taron Barker at point guard.

Williams has taken a circuitous route to reach UC. He signed with Kansas State out of Mansfield High School in Arlington, Texas, and played one year with the Wildcats mostly as an off-guard but also spent some time at point. Despite averaging 9.0 points in 29 games at KSU, he decided to transfer. But Wildcats coach Jim Woolridge would not grant him his release, so he had to attend junior college, which cost him a year of eligibility.

In his fourth game at Chipola last season, he broke his left foot, which caused him to miss a big chunk of the season. He still managed to play in 20 of Chipola's 32 games, averaging 12.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He shot 36 percent from 3-point range.

"I really don't like to talk about that school," Williams said of Kansas State, "but I will say that it wasn't a situation for me. They really had some issues over there, but I'm past Kansas State. I'm ready to continue here at Cincinnati. I'm really hungry to get out here and win some games."

After he arrived in Cincinnati last summer, X-rays determined that the screw that had been surgically inserted into his broken foot was bent and that the foot had not healed properly. He underwent surgery again in late June, and only for the past month or so has the foot been fully healed.

Williams, 6-4 and 180 pounds, says he feels comfortable playing either point or shooting guard. He will compete with sophomore Chadd Moore for the starting point guard position at UC, assuming Moore's back spasms allow him to compete.

While Kennedy is effusive about Williams' potential, UC coach Bob Huggins is more reserved.

"I haven't seen him, other than what I saw at Chipola," Huggins said. "That doesn't mean he can do it here. But I think he's a very intelligent kid. He's got a great work ethic and he comes from a great family."

After what Williams has been through the past few years, he's taking nothing for granted.

"I know that any second, whether it can be a pickup game or a real game, I could suffer an injury and never play again," Williams said. "A lot of guys don't think about that, but I was really scared that I would never play again, especially after I had the surgery the second time. I know I have to take advantage of every second that I have to play."

E-mail bkoch@enquirer.com




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