Where are they now?
UNC star, 1993 MOP Williams giving back to game as coach
Avid college basketball fans are sure to remember Chris Webber’s timeout signal that led to a technical foul in the 1993 national title game between Michigan and North Carolina, but what they may not remember is the person who made the free throws which gave North Carolina to a 77-71 win against the “Fab Five” and the Tar Heels second NCAA title.
That player was Donald Williams – the Most Outstanding Player of the 1993 Final Four. Williams netted 25 points in both Final Four games that year, hitting 5-of-7 three-pointers in both contests, including the 78-68 defeat of Kansas in the semifinals. He scored 109 points in the last five games of the 1993 NCAA Tournament, averaging 21.8 points per game, and set Final Four records by making 10 three-pointers and shooting 71.4 percent from three-point range.
Williams was only a sophomore at the time, and was a member of the Tar Heels for two more seasons, playing in the Final Four again in 1995. UNC lost to Arkansas in the semifinals that season in Williams’ final game as a Tar Heel.
After his career at UNC concluded, Williams went on to play professionally in eight different countries. He was a member of three championship teams overseas –- one in Sweden, one in the Philippines and one in Austria -- and also played in France, Greece and Spain before retiring from the game in 2008.
“I love the game of basketball, and because of basketball, I’ve gotten the chance to see the world,” Williams said. “I owe everything to basketball. I enjoyed it because I love the game so much …if I can go somewhere and play, I enjoy it.”
But after 12 years away from his home state of North Carolina, it was time to return home.
“I have three daughters and wanted to come back and spend some time watching them grow up,” Williams said. “That played a big role in my return.”
While his playing days are over, basketball still plays a main part in Williams’ life. He has now thrown himself into coaching the game.
“It is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Williams said. “Even when I was playing in Europe, I would come home in the summer and run camps.”
Williams also formed a non-profit organization named the Donald Williams Basketball Academy with the mission of “providing resources to kids of our community and help them develop spiritually, socially, and athletically,” and mentors young players by coaching AAU teams.
After serving as an assistant coach for two different high schools last year, Williams landed the head coaching position for the boys’ team at Northwood High School in Pittsboro, N.C. The Chargers have finished as state championship runner-up in both 2009 and '11, and are hoping Williams can lead them to that elusive state title.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Williams said. “I have a very young team, but they have talent. This program is used to winning, so I’m looking forward to it.”
While Williams is humble when it comes to talking about his playing days, he doesn’t mind if they do their own research.
“They’re going to Google you and find out who you are and your history on the court, which is cool because it seems like once they find out your accomplishments they seem to respect you a little more,” Williams said.
Williams is hoping to share the knowledge he gleaned from the legendary Dean Smith with his current group of players.
“Looking back, I think my favorite moments were at practice learning from Coach Smith and the things he taught me about basketball that I can teach the kids I’m coaching now,” Williams said.
One of the most important lessons Williams learned from Smith was that basketball is a team game.
“He taught me how to be a team player,” Williams said. “In high school, I was basically a one-man team and did all the scoring and shooting. My first day at practice he got me for that …and he taught me how to pass. He had to introduce me to my teammates. I’ll never forget that day.”
With the insight and wisdom he learned from Smith, Williams is not only looking to succeed at the high school coaching level, but one day move up to the college ranks.