JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three years ago, Austin Williams helped lead Bolles to its first boys basketball championship in 27 years. The year 2016 also happened to be the last time Yale made the NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs make their return to March Madness on Thursday when they take on LSU in the first round of the tournament in Jacksonville.
This will be the first time that Williams gets to go dancing and he’ll do so in front of his hometown crowd at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
“We started watching the NCAA selection show as a team,” said Williams. “Everybody started jumping up saying, 'you’re going home.' It was really exciting. I knew I was going to get a chance to be around my friends and family. They don’t get a chance to make a lot of regular season games so it’s been a really cool experience.”
Yale is a team that relies heavily on seven players that all see about 20 minutes or more a game. Not included in that bunch is Williams. As a junior, he’s averaging only 5.8 minutes per game. However, when he gets the opportunity to play, he produces.
“You don't know how hard it is to go to practice every day and not play in a game and reap the benefits, and sit on the bench and wait for your number to be called,” said Yale head coach James Jones. “But what you do is you come to practice every day so when your number is called you're ready. You know, Austin has done that for us, and he's been a tremendous kid.”
Adjusting to not having a major role is tough for most college players who starred on the high school level. Williams scored 1,000 points in his career at Bolles.
This season, Williams has appeared in 16 games and he’s shooting 72 percent from the field.
“It's important for us to make sure that everyone knows they're vested in what we do, and just because you don't go out and score the points and get the rebounds or make the assists, you still are really important to Yale basketball and what we do,” said Jones.
“I believe that Austin feels that way, and that's one of the reasons why he's able to go into the game and having not played in like six or eight or ten in a row and able to be successful because he's worked hard for his opportunity and was just waiting for it.”