Welcome to the real world
SAN BERNARDINO – Cal State San Bernardino men’s basketball coach Jeff Oliver acknowledges he didn’t know if he would see Curtis Williams again after he took back his scholarship following the 2003-2004 season because of his academic shortcomings. It was a chance he was willing to take. “I gained, like, 30 pounds,” he said with a chuckle. “When I say I was away from the game, I was away from the game.” A 6-foot-4 senior guard, Williams said he never thought about not coming back because basketball meant to much to him. So did the school and the tough-love coaching staff. He arranged for his own financial but said it also took help from his mother and his then-girlfriend with whom he was living. The academic struggles were not surprising. Oliver said Williams has the talent to play at the Division I level but had to settle for playing in junior college when he came out of Warren High School in Downey in 2000. He opted to attend Cerritos because it was close to home and traditionally fielded quality teams. There he played with James Perkins, who took a recruiting trip with Williams to Cal State and eventually decided to follow him there. “He has always been able to shoot a little,” said a sarcastic Perkins, glancing over at his teammate just a few yards away. “He does everything pretty well, though. I’m glad he’s on our side.” Williams said he likes pressure situations. He nailed a NBA-range three-pointer from the top of the key in the closing seconds against Findlay (Ohio) at Grand Canyon to send that game into overtime – although the Coyotes eventually lost. He drained eight three-pointers, seven of those coming in the first half, on his way to a career-high 32 a week ago in a loss at Monterey Bay. Williams has a better shooting percentage from long distance than inside. He is shooting 44.0 percent (55-for-125) overall but is at 44.8 percent (39-for-87) from three-point range. “I like it out there. The further out, the better,” he said. Oliver said that although Williams does have great touch, he gets a lot of clean looks because of his movement. “He works to get the shots because he moves without the ball and gets himself open,” the coach said. “That’s something I wish I (could) get some of our other guys to understand.” Not only does Oliver appreciate his player’s work ethic, he likes his passion, too. He said it is Williams that is the most down after a tough loss. And there have been many of those this season. But nothing Williams does on the court will make Oliver happier than when he graduates, most likely in June of 2007. “Nothing could make me prouder than watching him walk across that stage and get his diploma,” he said. “We’re here as coaches, but our other job is to see that kids come out of here better people. He worked hard to get where he is now.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card Williams matured in the year he spent focusing on school instead of sports and returned to the program this season a more responsible person. The layoff didn’t affect his game, either. He is averaging a team-high 13.4 points and has emerged as one of the most feared three-point shooters in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. He and the Coyotes (5-7 overall, 4-2 league) will face Cal Poly Pomona (8-5, 4-2) in a crucial showdown at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Coussoulis Arena. “I learned a lot in that year,” Williams said. “It was good for me to have that time to get back on track as far as school goes. I just realized how much I needed to get that degree.” Oliver said that in his year away, Williams didn’t get the benefit of any services offered to athletes. No special academic counselors. No one to schedule classes for him. No one to help him arrange supplementary aid. He was completely on his own. Williams went to most of the home games and contemplated whether he would fit in or if he could have helped when the team was struggling. But participation was limited to some shooting around with a teammate once every couple of weeks. “He needed to get well academically, and he wasn’t going to do it on the school’s dime,” Oliver said. “At some point you, have to stop spoonfeeding these kids so they take responsibility for their own actions. When they leave here, they’re adults in the real world, and we do them a disservice if we’re not preparing them for that.” The move paid off for Williams, Oliver and the Coyotes.