Player Profile: Eric Williams
By Glen Straub, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, 11/21/2001


There really isn't another word to describe how senior forward Eric Williams felt at the end of last season.

After sitting out the 1999-2000 season because he transferred from Syracuse to the Massachusetts men's basketball team, Williams was pumped to have a breakout year in his junior campaign.

However, the Brooklyn, N.Y. native had an inauspicious season in his first year with the Minutemen. He averaged 3.8 points per game, 3.5 boards per game and only ten blocks. These numbers are sub-par for a 6-foot-8, 243 pound big man.

Using his substandard play as motivation this year, "E-Will" - as his teammates call him - has come back with a vengeance. In Greece, he averaged 10.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and was also voted by his teammates as one of the tri-captains along with fellow seniors Kitwana Rhymer and Shannon Crooks.

"I am going to lead by example," Williams said. "I am going to be the hardest worker in practice, try to go to every class, and try to get the guys to do everything we have to do to be a team on and off the court."

Williams feels that he will be a solid captain for UMass and that he will have a great relationship with his new coach.

"I like coach (Steve) Lappas," Williams commented. "He gets on you and makes you work hard no matter who you are on this team."

Williams' improved play can be credited to his intense off-season workout sessions. From sitting out a full year, he became out-of-shape and lost some of his skills. Over the summer he refined his skills, such as his shot, and bulked up. Now he is ready to be a force in the low-block.

"I tried to work on my shooting and I ran a lot," he said. "Willie Jenkins and I got up at 7 a.m. and shot everyday.

"I knew I had to work on my shot because Lappas is a type of coach that likes when his big men can step out and hit the open jump shot."

The fifth-year senior has a very important role on this year's squad and it will most likely come from the bench. He will probably be one of the first men off the bench - spelling Micah Brand and Rhymer.

"I feel my role is to get everybody in the right spots and call plays," Williams said. "One thing Coach Lappas said I do well is talking on the court."

"E-Will" hopes to use his newly refined skills as well.

"I want to grab as many rebounds as I can, score points under the basket and step out and hit shots from the wing," he said.

Williams is one of many big-men on the team that is going to benefit from Lappas' new offensive style that was brought over from Villanova, as there will be a lot more motion on offense this year. Last year, the team would just stand around and watch Monty Mack make a move or take a long shot. This year with the motion offense, the center and forwards will be constantly moving in and out of the key - leading to more balanced shooting and more rebounds.

Lappas feels that Williams will fit it in perfectly with the new UMass philosophy.

"Eric is a very skilled player who understands the game," Lappas said. "He knows how to play and will fit in very well with our style of play."

Lappas expects a lot out of his new player. As one of the captains, he will be in charge of making sure that everyone learns and remembers the new style of play that will be brought to the Mullins Center court this season.

"Basically I have to go out there and take my time," he said. "In the motion offense, you have to move with or without the ball and make crisp passes.

"I really like the motion system and I feel that I can perform all of the above."

While Williams expects a lot out of himself, he also expects a lot out of his team. Like his coach and the rest of his teammates, "E-Will" has high expectations in the outlook of the squad.

"With Anthony [Anderson] and Kyle [Wilson] it will be real good because we will have two point guards on the floor," Williams said. "We can score from the outside or the inside - pretty much anywhere on the court.

"The thing is we need to work hard on defense. If we can keep teams to 50-60 points a game, we will have a successful season."

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