Williams has met all five WSU players with retired numbers - don’t forget Cliff Levingston and Cleo Littleton - and can’t quite wrap his brain around that fact.
“Those are some Hall of Fame guys,” said Williams, a 6-foot-2 senior guard from Las Vegas. “When you hear about Wichita State history, those are the names that come up. They were tremendous athletes and tremendous players. So I’m honored. I had just luck with the players I played with and our coaches.”
Fortunate, certainly, but there’s one thing left off Williams’ resume that bothers him: His team has never won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
They will try to avenge that Friday night vs. Missouri State. Tip off set for 6:05 at the Scottrade Center.
Now understand, Williams is not alone. No Shocker has won the Valley Tournament since 1987. The tournament moved here in 1991 - the year Williams was born - and most years the Shockers haven’t even been close.
Williams can’t quite wrap his brain around that one, either.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Williams said. “I don’t understand why. There have been great players, great coaches and great teams. It just hasn’t all come together for us in St. Louis. My thing is to let every guy know how the opportunity is at hand, and anybody can win if you put in the work.”
Williams’ freshman season, 2009-10, the Shockers made it to the Valley Tournament championship game. They lost to a Northern Iowa team that went on to advance to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
The last two seasons, they’ve lost in the semifinals - winning on Friday and losing on Saturday.
Williams thinks they’re due to break that trend this weekend. WSU coach Gregg Marshall is hopeful, too. The Shockers aren’t exactly on a roll - having lost back-to-back games going into the tournament - but are still the No. 2 seed.
“We can lose in any round,” Marshall said. “That’s the Valley, and that’s tournament basketball. There’s no better example than what you get here in St. Louis.”
Talking about practice - Marshall said the Shockers had an “excellent” practice on Monday and a “tremendous” practice Wednesday, sandwiched around a Tuesday practice that “was just OK.”
“At this time of the year, everybody’s got some banged up bodies and what-not,” Marshall said. “We’ve tried to go very short and very efficient with our time. We’re not trying to re-invent basketball here. We’re just trying to get better with our ball movement, our player movement and our defense.”
In good shape? - If you’re wondering about the Shockers’ at-large chances in the NCAA Tournament should they not win the Valley Tournament, this news might be a little sobering. There hasn’t been an NCAA at-large berth given to a non-Valley champion (regular season or tournament) since 2006.
It has happened to the Shockers before, in 1988. And this team has already won four more games (24) than that team.