Monday, February 25, 2008

Jason "Jay" Williams- New Jersey, to North Carolina, to Illinois, and All the Way Back

There are an absurd amount of athletes named Jason Williams, with the first names ranging in spelling from Jason, to Jaison, to Jayson. Yet, there is only one who decided to go by Jay Williams, and he may be the most well known of them all. Jay Williams was a top-notch high school basketball player at St. Joseph's (NJ), an All-American at Duke University, and was made the second overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls. Jay's basketball career has taken him from New Jersey (high school), to North Carolina (college), to Illinois (pro). The former NCAA National Player of the Year has come back to New Jersey, and went to the Prime Time Shootout, as the event ambassador. Williams' life in basketball has taken him on a figure-eight, as after the NBA, he returned to Duke for a while, and now is back where it all began, in New Jersey. Jason took some time to speak with me while at the Prime Time Shootout.

NB: What’s it like coming back? You used to play here . . . in New Jersey, [and now you’ve] come back and [are] the ambassador for the [Prime Time Shootout].
JW: It’s always in honor to come back to the event that kind of made me who I am. [With] me coming from St. Joseph’s [in] Metuchen, New Jersey, we played against a lot of smaller schools, so on a national scale, it wasn’t as big as it is now, but I got a chance to play against some of the elite competition from other areas, besides AAU, and that was huge for me because [those] couple games kind of put me on the map with pro scouts and also college scouts as well.

NB: How would you compare doing things like this, such as being an ambassador, and announcing, some of the other things you do now, compared to playing basketball?
JW: Well, I’m not announcing anymore. I actually have my own sports agency, and [I’m] doing some things with 24 Hour Fitness. I love it because I [still] get a chance to stay around the game. This is the one thing about the game is that there’s always going to be politics involved, any way you decide to go about it, and for me, most of my life, I was the guy who was dealt the politics, and now I’m the guy who's able to deliver the politics, which is different. So, I love being a part of what I’m doing now, and helping guys understand their value, . . . and be part of helping them make a difference in their lives.

NB: What’s it like being on the other side? You said . . . now you’re the one giving the politics.
JW: It’s different. It’s different, in the fact that sometimes . . . you try to mentor kids going through the same situations you went through, but you know nothing is really going to prepare them unless they go through it for themselves. So I [have] kind of started to understand how my parents felt with me for a long time, trying to tell me what to do and what not to do. . . . Its been an amazing experience to get a chance to mold and help somebody discover who they are, and follow their footsteps through the process is really lucky.

NB: Going back to 2001 when you guys won the national championship [at Duke], what was that like in comparison with some other moments for you? What would you compare that to, winning the NCAA Championship?
JW: I think the only thing to compare that to is to me, getting my degree in three years. Those are the two most memorable moments from college for me. I know a lot of guys say they want to win a national championship, but nobody really has an idea about how much it takes, effort, and sweat, it takes to get there, and how the stars have to be aligned for it to actually happen. We beat every team in the tournament that year by 10 [or more]. [We] had some really big games with some big teams, I mean you talk about . . . the championship game, it’s myself, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer, Chris Duhon, [and] Shane Battier [for Duke] versus Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas, Loren Woods, Michael Wright, and Jason Gardener [for Arizona], so you got nine [future] pros on the floor. That’s unbelievable, that’s a heck of a game, so [it’s a] very memorable experience.

NB: When you think back on those memories, what stands out the most, other than the national championship, as the best part of playing college or high school basketball, or in the NBA?
JW: For me it was, I think two. I had a triple-double vs. Jason Kidd, where I had 27, 25, and 21, which is amazing. I was the first guy to do that in Chicago since Michael Jordan. The second one is just getting a chance to play against Maryland, we were down 10 with 50 seconds [left], and I don’t know what the heck happened, God just came down and touched me on the forehead, and I ended up scoring eight points in 50 seconds and we win the game. It was truly a miraculous comeback.

NB: So is it true that you hate that chant, “Overrated”?
JW: Oh, I love that chant. I love that chant because it makes me play better.

NB: When that book [Five-Point Play] was written about you guys, what was that like?
JW: It’s crazy. A lot of people always tell me I should write my own book about my comeback and my journeys through adversity, and I tell them I don’t know, but to be able to go in the history books one day and see your name written among some of the top greatest players of all-time in college basketball, it says a lot about my parents, who pushed me to not only be that I could at basketball-wise, but also academically, and be able to graduate school in three years, and still be a two-time national player of the year and win a national championship is a huge honor.

NB: How do you feel looking at . . . Andrew Bynum who came out of your high school, and now he’s really successful in the NBA, playing with Kobe [Bryant]?
JW: I’m happy for him. The thing about it is nobody understands how lucky you are to play this game, until something happens, and more importantly, the life expectancy of your ability to play this game could be one year, or it could be 15. So, to see Andrew come from where he came from and then see him blossom and grow, and become an intricate part of [the Los Angeles Lakers] and their foundation says a lot about him, the will not to quit, and to keep fighting, and I wish him the best.

NB: Do you have any interest in ever going into coaching, or are you just liking what you’re doing now?
JW: No, having my own sports agency keeps me busy enough. To be able to relate to these kids and handle their everyday situations, I don’t know if I really want to get into coaching. Maybe when I’m 35 or 40, but I’m 26 right now and I enjoy what I’m doing.

When one thinks back on Jay Williams' days at Duke, it's hard not to remember just how fantastic he truly was. Williams was a spectacular basketball player, and is one that will never be forgotten due to the history books. For those of you that do not know, Five Point Play is a book about Duke's 2001 NCAA National Championship, and it is mentioned a number of times in the book, that Williams hates the chant "Overrated" that is sometimes directed towards the Blue Devils, as well as other teams. It is clear that Williams has the skills to be a successful sports agent. Anyone who can endure all that Williams has been through, and remain strong, is a person destined to succeed. He has gone to a hard road from New Jersey, to North Carolina, to Illinois, and all the way back to where he started, but now that he is back in New Jersey, Jay Williams knows what he wants, and he is well on his way to getting there.

Note- photo is from

No comments: