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Tuesday, January 25, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 80

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Williams standing tall in freshman campaign

Rohith Nandagiri
Daily Cougar Staff

At first glance, he is an imposing presence.

He stands 6-8 with a wingspan that seems double that. And when he shakes your hand, you might as well use both hands to make up for his one.

George Williams, a freshman from Missouri City, has already made a name for himself at the University of Houston. He is averaging more than 14 points a game and nearly nine rebounds. He is also leading the team in blocks.


Kevin Harwerth/The Daily Cougar


Freshman George Williams (42) swats away a shot by DePaul's Quentin Richardson at Hofheinz Pavilion. Williams is averaging more than 14 points per contest and leads UH in five different categories.

Not only that, he leads the team in field goal percentage (.513), rebounding average (8.8), steals (1.7), blocked shots at almost one a game and is first in minutes played. 

He is not your typical freshman.

He has received rave reviews from opposing post players such as Chris Mihm of Texas and Jake Voskuhl of Connecticut, both of whom are expected to be drafted into the NBA. Williams scored 23 points against Texas on Jan. 2, and amassed 12 rebounds. He had nine points and 13 rebounds against UConn.

With all this, it's easy for people to label him "The Man" and anoint him as the second coming. But don't think that all the attention and stats have gone to his head.

"I read it but I can't say I'm the man because I want to get better," Williams said. "I know I am not the man. I am in college and I am doing well, but if I start thinking that, my parents are going to let me know about it."

Williams was Mr. Basketball in Texas last year and was rated one of the top 15 prospects in the nation by most recruiting services.

But basketball does not begin to describe Williams off the court. He is humble and soft spoken, two qualities rarely exhibited by athletes today. He attributes that to his parents and his upbringing.

"They have always been there," Williams said. "I live with both my parents and they are my biological parents and they have raised me since I was born."

"They have been there teaching me different values, teaching me about everything. I attribute my success so far to them, because they have so much to do with everything. They taught me everything I know and everything I do besides the natural God-given ability to play basketball," he said.

But do not mistake this humble nature with his on-court demeanor. When he is playing, he is a terrorizing force anywhere he goes. When he rebounds the ball, he goes up high with both elbows up to ward off any remaining little people.

"You have to be (aggressive). If you are passive on the court, teams will take advantage of you and your game won't be productive," Williams remarked. "You have to be aggressive and you have to be fierce. At times, I need to be more aggressive and more fierce and that is something I need to work on."

Clyde Drexler

UH men's basketball coach Clyde Drexler speaks about his protégé in glowing terms.

"He reminds me a lot of myself and Michael Young when we were in college. He is just here, he blends in with the other guys, and he is super-talented. But it doesn't affect him. He is just a regular guy who works extremely hard.

"His parents did a phenomenal job. He is a consummate gentleman. He is the kind of guy you want your kids to grow up to be like."

Drexler agrees that he is a sort of gentle giant. "He is a gentle giant, with a lot of finesse and a lot of power. He is fierce on the court, but off the court he is the nicest guy in the world. I thought he was the best freshman in the country (over the first half of the season). And the way he is playing, he has a lot of other people feeling that way."

But it has not been easy for Williams all the way around. He has had to adjust to the college lifestyle. "The hardest part of college is off the court. You have so much free time, and if you don't focus, it's hard. You want to stay in the gym forever, but you know you need your rest."

"As far as the physical play on the court, I worked really hard since my high school season ended. I knew where I was going and I knew what I had to do when I got there, so I started early to try and prepare myself."

Williams is very optimistic about the future of this once-storied program. "There is nowhere to go but up. Guys like Alton Ford, Patrick Okafor, Justin Lyman, Chris Booker out of Dallas -- the program is going up. I played against them, with them, I watched them, and they are all great players and I am glad they are coming here."

With the addition of players like Williams, Bernard Smith and Alton Ford, Houston is once again becoming the hotbed for local talent. Houston is able to out-recruit programs like Louisville, Duke and Texas for players in this state. The fact that Williams is receiving so much playing time as a freshman can only help enhance the view of this program.

Williams is not the only player on this Cougar squad who exhibits these qualities. Almost all of the players are humble and friendly. It makes you wonder why more stories aren't written about this aspect of collegiate sports. 

And since Williams feels he can get better, it will not be surprising if he starts thinking NBA in a few years. But judging from the way he talked, he seems very keen about getting his degree. 

He likes computers, but wants to interact with people. He wants to do something in the realm of sports and sports management, so that when his playing days end, he can give something back to younger athletes.

Cougar fans can look forward to seeing him in Cougar red for years to come. He definitely could be the savior of this program.
 

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