Sunday November 11, 2012

AMHERST

The last time Chaz Williams was seen wearing a UMass uniform in a game that counted, the point guard was a very unhappy guy.

Fast forward from March 27 to this week, and the redshirt junior point guard is singing a different tune.

"A week," said Williams, when he was asked how long it took to get over the 74-64 loss to Stanford in the NIT semifinals last season. "It's basketball. I just let a week go by. A week later, I had to go and work out again."

We all read and hear about athletes who can't sleep for weeks after losing a big game. Players often tell stories that it took them years to get over those losses. But a week?

Williams no longer thinks about it.

"Not at all," said the guard with his megawatt smile. "Coach [Derek Kellogg] always preaches about worrying about the next play. Now, it's like worrying about the next play and worrying about the next game. You're not worrying about the past.

"It ended as a loss, but it wasn't an NCAA run. It wasn't too significant for us to remember."

The transfer from Hofstra scored a game-high 19 points for the Minutemen that Tuesday night at the World's Most Famous Sports Arena, but the Cardinal made the guard from Brooklyn work for each one of those points.

"We tried to crowd him as much as we could," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said that night, "and keep people around him in the paint.


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While Williams said it wasn't "too significant," it was an opportunity for he and the rest of the returning Minutemen to use the loss as an educational tool.

"It was a maturing and humbling experience for us as a whole and for me personally," he said. "At the time, I felt like wasn't able to do things that I should do. I was able to learn from those mistakes."

Williams and his teammates open their 2012-13 season Tuesday morning at 10 in the Mullins Center against Ivy League power Harvard.

The Minutemen, by appearing on ESPN so early, will have lots of eyes on them. Williams will be the guy most everyone will be keying on.

The point guard was a first-team, All-Atlantic 10 pick last year and is a preseason first-team selection again this year.

"I feel like I'm much better as a player," he said. "I'm more mature, much older, and much smarter. I feel very confident about this year."

Williams said he believes he'll be more consistent this year. He did quickly add that he won't know that until the season plays itself out.

He also said the Minutemen should be as good as last year. The team only graduated one starter in center Sean Carter. Four starters from last year's team return.

Kellogg said that Williams is going to be on the floor a lot. When the backup point guard is freshman Trey Davis, that'll happen. Davis is in a similar spot that Williams was in a year ago.

As to being one of the older guys now, Williams said he's ready for it.

"It feels pretty good," he said. "Being a leader, you always feel much older than you are. Last year, I felt pretty old, but I was young.

"Now, I feel real old."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.