Banished point guard Williams returning to Huskies
The junior point guard had been banished from the team the past four months while serving probation for his role in the theft of laptops this summer. He stayed in class, kept his grades up and finally rejoined the second-ranked Huskies in practice this week.
"It's been difficult. I've been watching the team win games. They won at Maui. They're playing great basketball," he said Friday. "And me not being a part of that, it hurt."
Dressed in a suit and tie, Williams made his first appearance on the bench Friday for the Huskies' 129-61 rout of Morehead State that made them 9-0. He's eligible to play when the Huskies open the Big East season at Marquette on Jan. 3.
The semester-long suspension and academic requirements were school-imposed sanctions. He also must successfully complete 18 months' probation for first-time offenders to have his criminal record erased. That includes 400 hours of community service at a convent in Meriden, about 40 miles from campus.
His mother left her home in Los Angeles and moved in with him last semester. Michele and Kelly Williams joined their son after Friday's game when he spoke publicly for the first time since his suspension.
"He seems to appreciate things more now. He doesn't take things for granted like he used to," Kelly Williams said. "He's been through a lot having something that you love taken away from you. It grows you up real fast."
Williams led the Big East in assists last season with 7.8 a game. He figured to be a crucial part of the Huskies' try for a third national title on a team with scorers Rudy Gay, Rashad Anderson and Denham Brown. But in what he called a stupid mistake, the 20-year-old Williams almost squandered away his college career.
He and teammate A.J. Price were arrested in August on larceny charges. They were accused of trying to sell laptops stolen from student dorm rooms. Two of the computers belonged to members of the UConn women's team. Price received a similar probation from the courts, but is banished from the team all season.
"I thought I may never play here again, may never go to school here again," Williams said.
Coach Jim Calhoun suspended Williams for most of his freshman year because of academic troubles. He returned in good graces, until this summer.
"I just wasn't thinking," he said. "The thing that I did is done already. It's all about making my future more wise and make sure you think before you act."
Williams has apologized to his family, coaches, teammates and through a student judicial board, the students whose laptops were stolen. He's prohibited by the courts from having any contact with them.
During his exile from the team, Williams practiced alone at a nearby high school, sometimes late at night. He knows he's not in what he calls "Calhoun shape" and figures it will take a few weeks to get there.
His mother will live with him until school ends in May.
"She's helped me out tremendously the first semester," Williams said. "Why have her leave?"
Williams said UConn students have been supportive, but realizes it will be different on the road.
"I'm not asking for anyone's sympathy. I don't deserve anyone's sympathy," he said. "I'm just going out there and play basketball."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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