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17 Mar 2015

Williams Decides on Iowa

Williams Decides on Iowa

Originally posted on herald-review.com by Justin Conn 

When Christian Williams wasn't on the court leading St. Teresa to the state championship game this winter in his senior year, he was wearing an Iowa stocking cap.

And while Williams said the cap wasn't meant to be a hint of where he would play his college basketball, when he got a call with a scholarship offer from University of Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery at 8 p.m. on Sunday night, Williams gave his commitment to the Hawkeyes.

"(McCaffery) told me back in the fall if I stayed patient and trusted him, he promised me he'd come to a game," Williams said. "He finally came to the state championship game. He said he liked what he saw and believed I could do things at Iowa.

"Then he asked me if I wanted to go to Iowa and I told him, 'Yes.' He said, 'Let's get it done then.' "

Williams was heavily recruited. Schools that offered him scholarships included Saint Louis, Illinois State, Northern Illinois, Bradley, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Illinois-Chicago and Albany. Illinois and Minnesota were among the others showing interest.

Williams said his backup plan was Saint Louis or Northern Illinois, but Iowa was his first choice ever since first visiting the university as a junior.

"Right away it felt like that's where I needed to be," said Williams, who has attended an Iowa football game and a couple of basketball games in the last two years. "The organization felt like a family."

St. Teresa coach Tom Noonan said it was obvious from Williams' reaction to his first trip to Iowa that the Hawkeyes were the frontrunner.

"This is something he's wanted for a long time," Noonan said. "When he and his mother visited there a year-and-a-half ago, they both came back really impressed with how much of a family atmosphere it was. He felt at home there."

Iowa stayed in contact with Williams during the fall and early winter when Williams was attending St. Teresa but not playing sports there because of a residency issue. Noonan said when the issues first began last summer, Iowa was the first to contact him about it.

That dedication impressed Williams.

"That really made me feel like I could trust them," Williams said.

Williams will be the first H&R-area high school athlete to play Big Ten basketball since Robinson's Meyers Leonard at Illinois (2010-12), and first from Decatur since Lewis Jackson at Purdue (2008-12).

Williams averaged 18.8 points and 8.6 rebounds for the Bulldogs, whom he led to a 27-5 record, Central Illinois Conference regular-season and tournament titles, and a second-place finish in Class 2A. He was named first-team all-state by both the Associated Press and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association.

Williams' AAU coach Gavin Sullivan of the Illinois Irish said Williams' size -- 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot wing span -- with the ability to handle the ball is what drew colleges to Williams.

"A guard that big with his vision with the ability to dribble past people and score is extremely attractive," Sullivan said.

A scholarship for a guard came open at Iowa when Trey Dickerson was granted a transfer by the Hawkeyes last month.

Noonan said Williams would likely begin his time as a freshman playing the wing, but Noonan and Williams said they eventually see him as a point guard.

"They like having long guards and he definitely fits that," Noonan said. "They mix up their defenses -- McCaffery will play man, 1-2-2 zone or a 2-3. Christian's versatility fits well with that."

Williams said he thinks he can make an impact as a freshman at Iowa, and so did Sullivan. But Williams has plenty of work to do before he's a finished product. He said shooting and ball-handling were points of emphasis for him. Sullivan said adding strength is a must for Williams.

"Christian is going to have to add some weight -- how many minutes you get as a freshman a lot of times depends on who's ahead of you and how ready your body is physically," Sullivan said. "And added strength will help him finish with dunks instead of layups. He can jump, but you better be able to finish strong in the Big Ten or you're going to end up in the first row."

Iowa is 21-11 and a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes will play Davidson in the first round on Friday.

Williams is the second Macon County athlete to choose Iowa this year. Maroa-Forsyth's Jack Hockaday signed a letter of intent to play football there.

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