UMass senior guard Williams returns to hometown for Atlantic 10 championship

Of the some 144 college hoopsters competing in the Atlantic 10 Championship at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center this week from March 14 through 17, none will be more excited than UMass guard Chaz Williams. The senior backcourt star gets the rare chance, first chance to play in his home borough as a collegian. “I’m expecting 50 family members and friends,” says the native of the Bushwick section. “I spent my whole childhood life in Brooklyn and my family still lives there, so it’s going to be a special moment.”


One family member will be on hand for the proceedings will be his grandmother, Emma Williams, who Chaz fondly recalls “always told me to be myself. I predicated my game, the cross-over dribble and other moves, on Allen Iverson, but my grandmother said everyone’s different and special, so you have to be yourself.”


The former Bishop Ford H.S. standout believes that Brooklyn produces so many top basketball players – from Michael Jordan and Bernard King to Chris Mullin and Carmelo Anthony – because “there are hoops and basketball courts everywhere you go. It’s natural. New York is the Mecca of Basketball, you get that whole vibe. My older cousins were always playing, I would watch them, and try to play with them. It’s part of your environment.”


Williams added that growing in Brooklyn gave him the toughness to excel on the collegiate level. “You have to be tough to grow up in Brooklyn, it’s a tough city, I had to learn how to survive, it made me what I am today. Bushwick is a tough neighborhood, I have friends that are in tough situations right now. But it’s also a loving neighborhood.”

Chaz wishes there could be one more family member at Barclays among the dozens rooting for him. “If I could have dinner with one person in the world, it would be my father. He passed away, and I wish I could talk to him about the things we never had a chance to share.”


The A-10 tourney will be the first time Chaz Williams steps inside the Barclays Center. “I’ve passed it but never been inside.”


Williams grew up a Knicks fan – John Starks was his favorite – but when the Nets moved to his home borough “I became a full-blown Nets fan with the Knicks now secondary.”


Amherst has been a far cry from the city lights, but Williams says the adjustment wasn’t difficult. “Amherst is different for sure,” he says. “It’s slow, there’s farmland, there are no street lights, it gets pretty dark at night,” he laughs. “I went from urban to farmland, but the adjustment was easier than I thought.”


Like many of today’s younger hoopsters, Williams is proud of his 50-plus tattoos – “I’ve lost count, but they’re all special to me” – and expects to have just as many family members and friends at Barclays for the A-10 tourney for that “special moment.”

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