March 28, 2012

Williams eager to hit the hardwood

Isaiah Williams is ready to play for Marshall.

The 6'7 combo guard from Newark, New Jersey watched the Thundering Herd's 2011-2012 season from the stands as a non-qualifier. He saw the highs of beating Cincinnati to an up and down season punctuated by the program's first NIT berth in 24 years.

Williams chose Marshall after finding out Iona would not take a non-qualifier, and saw it as his ticket out of the Northeast. The streets of Newark are not for the feint of heart, and Williams basketball prowess allowed him to escape to life at a different pace in Huntington.

The different pace led to some changes for Williams, who won the 3-point shootout at the inaugural Mary Kline Memorial Classic in Pennington, New Jersey. The knock was he needed to fill out his lanky frame. One analyst said he was a Big East caliber player, but had a very underdeveloped body frame.

Apparently, the food options in Huntington are pretty good.

"I've gained 26 pounds since I got here," Williams said laughing. "I'm just happy. I thought I wasn't going to get any bigger, but I'm getting there."

The easy going nature of the Marshall campus and Huntington have endeared Williams to a culture he wasn't accustomed to after graduating from The Robinson School in 2011.
"The campus is not that big. It's just how I like it," Williams said. "People off campus are very friendly. That's new to me, because I came from the hard streets of Newark.
"If you don't know someone, you don't say anything to them (in Newark), but people out here talk to you like they already know you."

But that doesn't mean the past eight months have come without turmoil. While Williams said he enjoyed watching the team play, it was still bittersweet.

"I just sat there and was just wishing I could go help my team out," Williams said.

But what Williams was able to work on was filling out that skinny frame, which he said has helped him improve on the court.

"Weight training is helping my game a lot," Williams said. "I can shoot further out--go to the rim a lot stronger. It just helped me all around."

Despite his status as a non-qualifier, Williams played in pick-up games with players when possible. A lot of guys on the 2011-2012 team helped keep him working toward becoming better, and preparing for next season.

"I love the team. Everyone is cool," Williams said. "Some of the players knew what I was going through so they would tell me things to keep me focused."

Williams will join Tamron Manning, Kareem Canty and Elijah Pittman as newcomers next season. Kelvin Amayo is expected to join the squad after the Fall semester.

He says the newcomers should mix well with the returning front court players and star DeAndre Kane, and expects heavy expectations again next year.

"We (recruits) will blend in very well because the team is based on all guards," Williams said. "I think if we all go hard like we should we can be one of Marshall's best teams.

"I can't wait to shock everyone, just can't wait to put on the Marshall jersey and play every game like it is my last."

And Williams wants Herd fans to know, he's ready to help out.

"I'm just can't wait to be a Herd," Williams said.

Ryan Epling is an analyst with Herd Nation. Comments and questions are welcomed and encouraged on the Old Fairfield forum.

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