he waiting game that many athletes have to endure when transferring from one school to another is about to end for a patient UMass forward. Eric Williams transferred from Syracuse to Amherst following the 1998-99 season and now, after a year of practice and sitting out, Williams hopes the best is yet to come.
"I know my time is going to come," said Williams. " I just have to be patient and take life for what it gives me."
Williams was an All-American at Robeson High School in New York City. He then left Robeson after winning the Brooklyn Championships his junior year for Milford Academy in Connecticut where he averaged over 17 points per game. Williams talked briefly with UMass and then-assistant coach Bruiser Flint about becoming a Minuteman, but Williams decided to head back to New York for Syracuse.
Eric Williams at Midnight Madness 1999
"I don't have any hard feeling toward them," said Williams. "I just feel like they didn't tell me where I would fit in."
Williams believes his time at Syracuse was not a total waste. He formed great relationships with his assistant coaches and he also feels he improved his game greatly. Williams is just glad to have the chance to showcase his skills at UMass.
"I had to be selfish in some ways, I had to decide what was the best for me," said Williams. "I have goals that I want to reach for myself, that is why I transferred, but now I can be a team player."
Due to NCAA transfer rules, a player must sit out one full season after transferring to a school in the same divison. Williams still believes the best decision for him was to head to Amherst where he had kept up a good connection with Flint.
"I liked him coming out of high school. He's a good kid," said Flint. "I always had a good feeling he was going to end up at UMass, I think this is the best place for him."
Williams comes into the 2000-01 season with high expectations. With a full year of practice under his belt, Williams has worked hard and hopes to be in the starting lineup for the season-opener on Nov. 18 against Iona. Along with senior Kitwana Rhymer, fellow juniors Jackie Rogers, Ronell Blizzard and sophomore Micah Brand, the battle for playing time will be under the basket. With no set starting lineup in place, all will contribute minutes at the power forward and center positions.
"I just have to play my game," said Williams. "I think if I go out there and play good team defense, get the boards and put-backs, I'll be alright."
Transfers Dale Menendez and Eric Williams (left to right) can only sit and watch as they wait for their chance to play.
"Eric gives us size, something we did not have last year," said Flint of the addition of Williams to the UMass lineup. "His inside presence will make us a better team."
UMass is coming off a 17-16 season and a trip to the National Invitation Tournament. Flint, Williams and company hope to take advantage of the early home non-conference schedule to turnaround the Minuteman attack.
Williams is just happy that the wait is about over and his time will be coming soon.