April 9, 2014 11:47:23 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
WEST POINT -- It's hard to underestimate a connection.
With all of the factors student-athletes have to consider when picking a college, the relationship they build with coaches often plays a big role in the final decision.
West Point High School standout Tre Williams can attest to that. With a plethora of Mississippi junior colleges vying for his services, Williams kept coming back to how he hit it off with East Central Community College men's basketball coach Robert Thompson. That initial contact and subsequent meetings and conversations with ECCC assistant coach Devarus Walker paved the way for Williams to become a Warrior.
"(Coach Thompson) looked like he genuinely wanted me, so I really just hooked on to him at the beginning because it just felt real," Williams said.
On Tuesday, Williams finalized his choice by signing a scholarship to play basketball at the school in Decatur.
Williams also attracted interest from Northeast Mississippi, Northwest Mississippi, Mississippi Delta, Meridian, and Copiah-Lincoln. He said it wasn't difficult to cut through all of the details involved in the recruiting process because he enjoyed watching ECCC play against Meridian and he liked the ECCC campus, players, and coaching staff.
"I stayed with the one that stayed with me throughout the whole process," Williams said. "I really felt like they wanted me."
Williams was one of several local players to sign Tuesday. Starkville High standout Dontavius Self signed a scholarship to play at East Mississippi C.C., while Columbus High's Bri Edinburgh and New Hope High's Taylor Baudoin signed with Holmes C.C. and Jones County Junior College, respectively.
Williams was one of eight seniors on a team that helped West Point eclipse the 20-win plateau and advance to the semifinals of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North State tournament. At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Williams is known for his athleticism, quickness, and shooting ability, particularly from 3-point range. Earlier this season, he credited his father, Mitchell, for being his motivation. His father is disabled from being in an automobile accident, but Tre said his father hasn't used that as an excuse and has helped push him to realize his potential. The chance to sign a scholarship to play basketball at ECCC was the next step in his evolution.
"They told me I can score, so I love scoring," Williams said. "They said their best scorer (Johnson) just left. If I can come in and fill his shoes, I think I will be able to do great."
Williams admits hearing the coaches tell him he can score and they wanted him to do that at ECCC was very appealing. He said he isn't going to shy away from the expectations he will face as a freshman.
"It is nothing but hard work," Williams said. "If you put in the work and time in practice, you can get there. I am ready to work. I am ready to play."
West Point coach Brad Cox has watched Williams mature the past two seasons. He said Williams' desire to get better -- and willingness to call him to come open the school's gym so he could practice his shooting -- has put him in position to play at the next level. Cox said Williams is looking forward to the challenge of proving he can play and flourish in college.
"What got him to this point is how hard he works," Cox said. "He is the one I am letting in the gym at 6 o'clock in the morning so he can shoot before he goes to school. He is the one calling me every weekend wanting to know if he can get in the gym or if there is another drill he can do. It is basketball on the brain all of the time."
Cox believes Williams' work ethic will help push him to realize his next goal: to play basketball at a four-year school. He also is confident Williams will be able to shoulder the burden of being a key contributor in college.
"That is something he wants because he loves a challenge," Cox said. "They are going to put a lot on his shoulders. ... They are bringing a lot of new faces in and they are counting on Tre. His strength is he can create a shot, not only for himself but for his teammates."
Williams said the coaches at East Central C.C. have told him he will have a chance to come in and replace sophomore swingman Jacques Johnson, who paced the Warriors (8-15) in scoring at 15.1 points per game. Johnson was one of two players in double figures this past season.
Williams understands he will have to continue to improve, just as he has the past few years at West Point. But he believes the growth he has made the past two seasons will give him confidence to know he can take similar steps at the next level.
"Some people think going to junior college is a bad thing, but I think it is a good thing," Williams said. "I think I am ready to go to a four-year college, but I would rather go to a two-year school so I can know where I am at and know what I need to work on. When I do go to a four-year college, I will be at a higher level than most of the freshmen coming in. I think it is a good thing for me."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.