It’s no secret Rams fans love their point guards. From Eric Maynor to Joey Rodriguez, Darius Theus to Briante Weber – the Black and Gold always have their fair share of lovable floor generals.
The newest fan-favorite is no different. Whether it’s his big, bushy beard, his trademark short shorts or his ability to get to the rim at all costs, there’s plenty of reasons why Ram Nation adores Jonathan Williams.
Williams, a Richmond native, grew up just miles away from VCU, and as a child, his mother attended the same church as Ram great Calvin Duncan. Williams remembers those early seeds Duncan sowed, eventually leading him to follow the elder Rams’ footsteps.
“He used to take me to the gym when I was little,” Williams said. “That was back when I had to push the ball down the court.”
Several years later, not much has changed. As one of the Rams’ focal points on offense, Williams’ raw athleticism helps him push the ball — and tempo — down the court in front of his friends and family at The Stu.
The option to play for his hometown team is what brought Williams, who played high school basketball at New Jersey’s St. Benedict’s Prep, back to Richmond. He said he knew early on, during his high school sophomore season, VCU was the school for him.
“There was a New Years/Christmas tournament where I played really good and (former assistant) Coach Rhoades was in the stands and he was telling me they really liked my game,” Williams said. “It was cool being up there, but I always wanted to come back home.”
When talking to Williams, it’s easy to tell what home means to him. He said his relationships with friends and family are what’s most important. Williams’ older brother, who he said is his biggest role model, helped shape him into the man and player he is today.
“He was really good in high school and then he let certain things get into his life that kind of steered him away from basketball, ”He just tells me not to go down the same path,” Williams said.
I think I’m going down the right track, so I just need to make sure I don’t take any steps back. Just keep going on a straight path. I know I’m going to have some setbacks here and there, but I’ll be fine.”
This sort of humility is what makes Williams so endearing. It’s a big reason why, in his two-and-a-half years at VCU, the junior business major has grown into one of the team’s most vocal leaders.
Humbled by his experiences as a Ram, Williams said it’s all thanks to those around him – whether it’s Duncan, assistant coach Theus or even his current teammates.
“I’ve learned from some of the best to come through here about leadership,” he said. “They really helped me, so I can’t even take full credit for that.”
Despite his humility, Williams has the sort of confidence every coach wants to see in their leaders.
While mentioning how he needs to continue to improve his jumpshot, Williams added, “I feel like some teams still play me under a little bit, but I still can get to the basket whenever I want to, which is kind of funny. But if I get better at shooting, people are just going to be scratching their heads on what to do.”
This sort of attitude has helped Williams continue to evolve as a player and leader. The 6-foot-1 guard has improved every meaningful statistic each year he’s been at VCU. Whether it’s his scoring output, shooting percentage, assist numbers, steals or even rebounds, Williams has made significant improvements year after year.
As a freshman, his playing time was limited as he played third fiddle to Weber and JeQuan Lewis at the point guard spot.
Last season, as a sophomore, he started the season off on the bench, averaging less than 12 minutes per game until early February. Then, following two straight conference losses, coach Will Wade inserted Williams into the starting lineup and the speedy guard made the job his own.
From that point forward, he played nearly 20 minutes a night and started all but one game down the stretch, including an impressive 17 point, 5 assist outing in a massive win against conference foe George Washington later that month.
This season, Williams returned home from the team’s summer trip to Spain a changed man. In a junior campaign where he’s started all but three contests, he has more than doubled his output both in scoring and assists, averaging 8.7 points and 3.7 assists-per-game. He’s shooting over 50 percent from the field and his assist-to-turnover ratio is the best on the team.
But it’s not just on the court Williams has evolved. He said he’s seen himself become a much better person off the court during his time at VCU as well.
“I’ve been better with my discipline and workout regimen and study skills,” he said. “Because in high school you can just pass through everything and still get good grades, but here I’ve really worked on studying and time-management and just bringing everything together, so I think college has really helped me.”
At the end of the day, Williams said he’s just happy to represent his hometown school, both on the court and off it. After college, he said he hopes to be “hooping somewhere, making a lot of money and trying to provide for my family and doing whatever I can to give back to the city of Richmond.”
When asked what it’s like playing for his hometown team, representing the city of Richmond, Williams smiled from ear to ear and simply remarked “It’s great.”
Nick Versaw, Staff Writer