Latest posts by Mike Sandrolini (see all)
- Panthers emphasize improvement on the diamond - April 27, 2017
- Pasquale says so long after 16 years as mayor - April 27, 2017
- Youth Mentoring Day provides youngsters with positive role models - April 20, 2017
By Mike Sandrolini
PROVISO | Ottumwa, Iowa—located in the southeastern part of the Hawkeye State—is just north of the Iowa-Missouri border, around 290 miles west of Proviso Township.
Population-wise, Ottumwa is comparable to Maywood (25,000). But that’s where the similarities end. Maywood is nestled in the metropolitan Chicago area—where cities and villages are situated one right after another—while Ottumwa is in a peaceful valley, split in two by the Des Moines River.
Ottumwa also is Antonio Williams’ current residence. Williams, who led Proviso East to the sectional semifinals last year, attends Indian Hills Community College and just completed his freshman season with IHCC’s nationally ranked junior college basketball team.
Williams was a mainstay in the Warriors’ lineup, beginning the year as a starter and then giving them a lift off the bench as their sixth man. He was third on the team in minutes played.
The Warriors finished 29-5 and advanced to the NJCAA Division I national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., last week for the fourth straight year after defeating North Dakota State College of Science, 71-68, to win the District 11 title earlier this month.
IHCC unfortunately was ousted from the national tourney last Tuesday, March 22, bowing to Monroe (N.Y.) College, 70-64. IHCC shot just 35 percent from the floor and trailed 33-23 at halftime. The point total was the Warriors’ lowest first-half output of the season, and the loss ended a 13-game IHCC winning streak.
Nonetheless, Williams said he enjoyed competing in the national tourney.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “It was a fun time to get away and play in a good environment.”
Last winter, Williams was the Pirates’ main offensive threat, but not so with the Warriors.
“My role (this season) was to be an energy guy, score some, run the floor and get the ball to my teammates,” he said. “It’s been different. In high school I was the go-to guy and the ball was always in my hands, but it’s different now.”
When asked what adjustments he’s had to make from high school to college ball, Williams replied, “Focus more, and we also had to go hard all the time in practice to play good in a game. I had to learn how to slow down and see the game different. Every open shot isn’t a good shot, so I had to wait for perfect shot for me, and learn to look for someone else that has a better shot.”
Williams came out to visit the IHCC campus following his senior season at Proviso East and felt good about the school, the basketball program and head coach Hank Plona.
“They treated me like I was at home,” he said. “They took me around, let me know that it was something that I would basically enjoy. Coach has a good track record of developing Division I players and winning. I wanted to go somewhere that could help me get to the next level.”
Williams is one of three players on this year’s squad from the Chicago area, but IHCC draws players nationally as well as from around the world. Two players are from Spain, another is from Montreal and a fourth—6-10 forward Ricky Gouety—is a native of the Ivory Coast.
It’s taken some time for Williams to adjust to life in Ottumwa, but it’s helped him focus.
“It was very different,” Williams said, “but it’s something I can get used to because it caused me to focus with my school work more. There’s a lot of tall buildings in the city and a lot of open land out here and fewer things to do.”
Williams wants to play at the NCAA Division I level. Prior to choosing Indian Hills, he was getting interest from Hampton (Va.) University as well as from Illinois State, where former Proviso East stalwart Paris Lee just finished his collegiate career.
“There were a decent amount of (Division I) schools” interested, he said. “They were waiting to see if I qualified academically.”
Williams did miss court time at Proviso East due to academic ineligibility. He was on the ballot for last year’s Mr. Basketball of Illinois award and made the Chicago Sun-Times all-area high school team despite missing most of the first half of the year.
However, academics haven’t been an issue for Williams at Indian Hills.
“I’m actually doing very well in school,” he said.
Williams and Plona have already sat down and discussed his role for the 2017-18 season.
“He told me I am going to play a lot of minutes, guarding the best player on the other team and play a lot of minutes at the two (guard) and the one, so I’ll be switching up,” Williams said.
One aspect of Williams’ game that hasn’t changed is his ability to play above the rim despite his 6-foot frame. Williams led Indian Hills in dunks this season.
“I think I had around 60 dunks this year,” he noted.
Williams, who was on the ballot for this year’s Mr. Basketball of Illinois award, made the Chicago Sun-Times all-area team this season despite missing most of the first half of the year.