Oct. 28, 2011
By John Holt
Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
Nick Williams is not your typical college basketball player. If you ever sit down with him he’ll almost immediately classify himself as a “weird person.”
He’s someone who loves to watch cartoons, the National Geographic Channel and tell jokes.
Yet these days, being a member of the Ole Miss basketball team is where Williams finds the most joy.
“I love the camaraderie of basketball,” Williams said. “I love the guys on this team. It’s so much fun being around them.”
A liberal studies major, Williams a junior, first began playing basketball during his seventh grade physical education class. Growing up an avid Chicago Bulls and Alabama football fan, he also participated in football as a kid and had potential in baseball before he decided to give it up in the 10th grade.
In high school, people began to take notice of Williams’ unique talents and skills. His court awareness was exceptional in that he always seemed to know where to be on the court at any given time. During his junior year, he helped LeFlore Prep Academy in Mobile capture the Alabama class 6A state championship. Meanwhile, the following year he was recognized as the Alabama High School Player of the Year. And most impressively, for three of his four high school seasons he had LeFlore Prep ranked in USA Today's Top 25 poll at season’s end.
As he transitioned to the collegiate level, he would begin his journey in Bloomington, Ind. He joined an Indiana Hoosiers program that was in a rebuilding phase but had always had a rich basketball tradition.
“I’d never seen anything like the Indiana fans,” Williams said. “The way they kept coming out and supporting us was great. I really appreciate the way they stood behind us and I'll never forget it.”
As a true freshman with the Hoosiers, Williams started 29 games, ranked fourth on the roster in scoring averaging 8.9 points per game and third in rebounding pulling down 4.5 boards per contest. Following the season, Williams met with Indiana coach Tom Crean and decided it was best that he find a new home.
That spring, Williams transferred to Ole Miss. He stated that coach Andy Kennedy was the biggest reason he decided to join the Rebels’ basketball program over multiple other schools that showed interest in him.
“I trusted Coach Kennedy,” Williams said. “I’m happy I made that decision. It’s probably been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I kind of knew Coach Kennedy’s background because he had worked some in Mobile at South Alabama. We built a great relationship.”
After sitting out the entire 2009-10 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Williams’ first year wearing the Red and Blue had its ups and downs. He started 26 games during the 2010-11 season and averaged 6.2 points and 4.0 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per contest. Despite it being only his first year in the Rebels’ system, Williams had hoped his first season in Oxford would have produced better results.
“At first last season I thought everything was going well,” Williams said. “But at the end of the season, things kind of tailed off. My confidence wasn’t where I wanted it to be and things weren’t happening the way I wanted them to be. But I’m happy I went through that. If I had to go through it again, I’d go through it again. It taught me a lot about myself. I wasn’t where I thought I was.”
The Rebels as a team finished 20-14 and played in the 2011 NIT, yet still didn’t achieve their ultimate goal, which was to make the NCAA Tournament.
“Last year, we wanted to go to the tournament,” Williams said. “It just seems like every year we talk about ‘oh this is the year, this is the team’ but we need to stop talking about it and just go do it. I’m trying to lead this team by example and I’m pretty sure everyone else on the team is trying to do what they can do to make it.”
Williams realizes he will be expected to produce more scoring this season to help fill the void left by Chris Warren and Zach Graham. That’s why this past offseason he worked continuously on improving his ball handling, conditioning and strength all in preparation for the task at hand this season.
“I sometimes refer to Nick as a utility infielder,” said Kennedy of his veteran backcourt leader. “We need to be able to put him in a lot of different positions. He has to be versatile for us and be consistent. Nick has always been a vocal leader and a high energy guy.
Williams refers to himself as the biggest vocal leader on the Rebels' roster. In his third year in the program and fourth year in college, he has earned his teammates’ respect.
“Nick and I go back to high school,” said good friend and fellow Ole Miss veteran Terrance Henry. “We played on the same team at the NBPA camp. He brings leadership, versatility and a great sense of humor to the team. I wouldn’t trade him for any player in the country, and I love him like a brother. He’s always there when you need him - very dependable.”
Williams has no regrets about his decision to leave Indiana and is glad to have found a peaceful, welcoming home at the University of Mississippi.
“I wasn’t born being 6’8 or someone who was going to be super athletic,” Williams said. “I try to do other things on the court. It’s natural to me, being a good listener and doing what other people don’t do. I feel like being vocal and being everywhere on the court is just part of me. I’m a blue collar guy and that’s what I like to do.”
Williams and the Rebels kick-off their 2011-12 season campaign Nov. 3 at home against North Alabama.