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Manhattan freshman imposes ‘will’ on MAAC

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There was a lot of promise arriving at Manhattan College last season when Warren Williams walked onto campus.

The 6-foot-9, 240-pound bruiser was coming off a stellar career at New Jersey powerhouse St. Benedict’s Prep, where he had just led the Gray Bees to a pair of state titles and Top 10 national finishes.

Now that he was in Riverdale, Williams was expected to lift the Jaspers to new heights, and once again, have Manhattan running with the big dogs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. After all, the Jaspers had endured two straight losing seasons and had posted just one MAAC tournament win since the Jaspers captured those back-to-back conference titles and made consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. So it was time for a rebirth in Riverdale.

But all those grandiose plans were put on the backburner last season when Williams was forced to sit out his freshman season due to academic difficulties. That hoped-for turnaround never materialized as the Jaspers finished 14-17.

But now, with his academics in order, Williams is in the early stages of his debut season and already is making his presence felt at Manhattan College. Sure, there is still some rust to shake off, but right now Williams is just happy to once again play the game he loves.

“You never know when the game can be taken away from you,” he said. “So it definitely makes me appreciate the game more.”

Williams was allowed to practice with the team last season but could not participate in games and was not permitted to travel with the Jaspers on road games.

Being so close yet so far from the game made sitting out all the more frustrating for the Jamaica-born Williams.

“There would be times during a game last year that I would be like, ‘Man, I really think I could have helped the team there,’” he said. “I definitely wanted to jump in. And there were times I felt somewhat disconnected when the team was on the road. I would just watch the games on ESPN, and then I’d call the guys after the games and ask them how it was.”

But despite his interested bystander status last season, Williams used his downtime constructively. He picked the brains of his veteran teammates, learned how different the college game was from high school, and he also grew accustomed to how his coach, Steve Masiello, like to approached each game.

“I learned a lot by sitting out,” Williams said. “I learned from (former Jaspers) Zane Waterman and Rich Williams and other guys. And Coach Mas would give me tips on things that I think were beneficial.

“But one of the most important things I learned was I saw the pace of the game was so much faster. I saw that from just sitting on the bench. I also got to learn Coach Mas’ coaching style and got to see how he is as a coach, so I was definitely ready for this season. There are no surprises now.”

Well, there was one, which came late last summer when Williams was working out at Draddy Gym and Masiello stopped by with a question.

“I remember coach asking me, ‘Are you ready to be a Jasper?’” Williams said. “And I was like, ‘Yes, please!’ He just told me I was eligible and it was just great news. It was just such a great feeling.”

So was getting on the court this season, and Williams has wasted little time making an impact with the Jaspers. His play in the recent Northern Kentucky Basketball Classic helped lead the Jaspers to a 2-1 record and a third-place finish while earning a nod to the all-tournament team after averaging 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds over the three-day tournament.

“I think I’m just scratching the surface,” Williams said. “You put in endless amounts of work on the court and in the weight room every day. Not just me, all my teammates. And I just think me and my teammates, we’re all going to get a lot better as the season goes on.

Like coach says, water boils at 212 (degrees) and right now we’re sitting at 211.”

And in a league known for its great guard play and paucity of quality big men, Williams said it won’t be long before he makes his mark in the MAAC.

“I think there are going to be great things ahead,” Williams said. “I have big goals. The perfect season would be getting a MAAC championship for my guys and then see how far we can go in the (NCAA) tournament. That would be beautiful.”

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