'Jet' having a ball with Globetrotters
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
The Globetrotters, known throughout the world for combining humor with basketball, will perform at 7 p.m., Wednesday at the Holmes Center. They've been in business for 87 years and carry a tradition of entertaining crowds with trick shots, choreographed routines and plenty of slam dunks.
That's where Williams, 6-foot and 3 inches, comes in. Now in his second year with the team, Williams' specialty is the slam dunk. He finished second in the slam dunk contest at the NCAA Final Four in Houston in 2011 following his senior season at UNC Asheville.
It was the slam dunk contest where he first caught the attention of the Globetrotters.
"At UNCA, I built a good resume," Williams said. "I ended up going to the NCAA slam dunk contest and finished second. They noticed me and asked me to come out for a tryout. I haven't looked back since."
Williams took a path that had led him all over the world. He's entertained troops in the Middle East, and has been in places where it's not always safe.
Williams' first game was in France. His second game was in Lebanon. Instead of being afraid of that, he embraces it.
Williams said the Globetrotters aren't there to discuss politics, but to bring entertainment to the citizens of those countries.
"When we go into hostile or risky venues, our main goal is to bring smiles to their faces," Williams said. "We've had situations where there has been strife in the people there, and when they see us play they leave with smiles on their faces and they can forget their problems. We want to bring a little light to their day."
Playing for the troops is particularly satisfying for Williams. He's played in bases in the Middle East.
"We've played a lot of areas," Williams said. "We've played everywhere from a street in front of some Harvard students where we rolled out a goal and we've played at Madison Square Garden."
He's also played on an aircraft carrier.
"That was an awesome opportunity for me.," he said. "It was actually moving and that is a huge boat."
Not surprisingly, Williams lives a life of travel. There is more than one group of Globetrotters who tour at the same time, so the same team doesn't have to cover as many miles.
But Williams plays in so many games, he can't remember how many. He estimated that he plays in at least 200 games in a year.
"We get some down time," Williams said. "We get to go home every now and then. They make time so you can spend some time with your family."
One Globetrotters team is touring North Carolina at the end of March.
In addition to the March 20 game in Boone, the Globetrotters play in Greensboro on March 22 and in Charlotte one day later. They'll also play in Winston-Salem on March 24.
They'll also play in Johnson City, Tenn., on March 25, Fayetteville on March 27, Greenville on March 28, Wilmington on March 29 and in Asheville on March 30.
It's a chance for Williams to play in his home state. He is a Raleigh native who, during his high school years, attended Raleigh Word of God Christian Academy for two years. He finished high school at Christ Church School in Virginia.
He attended UNC Asheville on scholarship. He led the Bulldogs to a Big South Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2011.
Williams graduated the Bulldogs' all-time leader in blocked shots with 255. He played against Western Carolina, but never played against Appalachian State.
Williams acknowledged that there is a sense of responsibility to live up to the Globetrotters' name and reputation. The roster of former Globetrotters includes Wilt Chamberlain, Connie Hawkins and George "Meadowlark" Lemon.
Others include Marques Haynes, Fred "Curly" Neal, Hubert "Geese" Ausbie, James "Twiggy" Sanders, Reece "Goose" Tatum and "Sweet" Lou Dunbar. The first woman to ever play for the Globetrotters was Olympic gold medalist Lynette Woodard, who was an All-American at Kansas before joining the team in 1985.
Since that moment, 11 women have played for the Globetrotters, including Ariel "Mighty" Mitchel, and Tammy "T-Time" Brawner.
"Every time I put on the jersey, I think that there are 87 years on my back," Williams said. "I want to make sure to bring the best of my ability and that keeps me going. ... I was selected to a very prestigious organization and it's a dream come true for me. I wouldn't have it any other way. I get shivers when I think about what I'm doing."
Williams would not say which routine the Globetrotters would use Wednesday night. He did said that 7-foot-8 center Paul "Tiny" Sturgis, who can dunk the ball without jumping, might be in Boone.
Williams said that everybody who will go to the Holmes Center would have a good time.
"I can't promise a bucket of confetti, but I can say that people are going to leave excited and want to come back next year," he said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Globetrotters
WHERE: The Holmes Center, ASU
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 20