By Jon Rothstein
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Most New Yorkers aren’t welcome in Massachusetts.
Not in restaurants, not in movie theatres, and certainly not when it comes to sporting events.
It’s an area of the country that any native of the five boroughs will tell you is off limits — unless you’re Chaz Williams.
The Brooklyn native and former Bishop Ford product is now starring at UMass after spending the first year of his college career at Hofstra — and the Minutemen haven’t looked back since he became their starting point guard.
Through 18 games this season, UMass is 14-4 heading into tonight’s game at Duquesne and Williams has been the catalyst. The 5-foot-9 floor general is averaging 16.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 40.3 percent from 3-point range.
“I’m not surprised,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said when he was asked if Williams was better than he initially thought. “I knew how good he was when he was sitting out last year, I saw him every day in practice. You also got the vibe talking to a lot of people around the New York area that he was a special player and could make an impact right away.”
In addition to his own personal accolades, Williams has lifted the level of his teammates.
“He’s really made a difference with our whole team,” Kellogg said of Williams. “He’s made our perimeter guys better but the biggest beneficiary of Chaz is Raphiael Putney, whose really benefiting from playing with a true point guard.”
Putney, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward is averaging nearly six points more per game than he did a year ago and is up statistically in all major offensive categories.
“There’s no question that having a capable point guard is the most important thing in basketball,” says Kellogg, who was a point guard at UMass in the early 1990s and coached Derrick Rose as assistant at Memphis in the 2007-8 season. “Chaz is proof of that.”
He’s also proof of toughness.
For a team that he needed a jolt, Williams has been the perfect thing to ignite the Minutemen.
“He’s brought that New York City edge to our team,” Kellogg said of Williams. “We needed that big time.”
Your thoughts on Williams’ impact on UMass? Sound off below…