February 12, 2009
by Pete Spiewak '10
Garrett Williamson knew how important it was to beat Rhode Island, and he was not going to let anything stop him from getting back on to the court. Not even the sharp, painful cramps that were in his back and legs.
"I fell down once and I couldn't get up," he said. "When I went to the bench, I was trying to get the cramps to stop, so I could stand up and walk to the table [and check back into the game]."
The 6'5" guard from Lower Merion, Pa., knew that his team needed him to guard Jimmy Baron, one of the nation's top three-point shooters. And he wasn't going to let his teammates down.
Ever since coming to Hawk Hill, Garrett Williamson has put the team first.
Williamson was a late addition to the 2006 recruiting class. He thought he might need another year to work on his game and become stronger, but after the coaches felt he could make an impact right away, Williamson dropped the idea of a possible redshirt and did whatever he could to help his team as a freshman.
Not only did he help Saint Joseph's, Williamson started right away.
When the coaching staff approached him about switching positions for his sophomore season, he worked tirelessly with former Saint Joseph's assistant coach and La Salle standout Doug Overton to learn how to play point guard after playing off the ball for four years in high school and his freshman season for the Hawks.
"Coach Overton worked with me a lot," he said. "He taught me a lot of what he knew. Once I learned from Doug and other guys on the team, I gained confidence, and it wasn't too hard."
"That's what the team needed," said Williamson, who was selected to the Preseason All-Atlantic 10 Defensive Team. "I just had to get used to coming off the bench. It was a change and I just tried to make the adjustment and learn. I was just happy to be playing."
The 6'5" guard never complained; he just worked hard and did what he was told.
In this day and age, when college recruits demand minutes and shots and are concerned with being the focal point on offense, Williamson's attitude is a breath of fresh air.
"I just want to go out there every night and put the team first," he said. "I don't worry about myself. The only thing I care about is winning."
And in order for this Saint Joseph's team to win, the Lower Merion native has to stop the opposing team's top perimeter threat in each game. Night in and night out, Williamson draws the toughest assignment on defense, but he also knows that the other player won't exactly be in for an easy night.
"I know that if I'm going up against a top guy in this league, I also know that he's going up against a top defender," the junior said. "And I have to bring it, because my teammates are counting on me. When I'm guarding a guy, I don't want him to score a point. Not one."
Williamson has played a big role in the Hawks' success as they reach the midpoint of conference play. He held Duquesne's Aaron Jackson to 3-of-13 from the field in an overtime thriller that the Hawks won at the buzzer on an Idris Hilliard tip-in. Jackson's 10 points that night were well under his 17 points per game average.
In the triple overtime win over Rhode Island, Williamson held Baron to 6-of-17 from the field, or 35%. Baron's season average is 44%.
For Williamson, defeating the Rams was important for a team that has had struggles in close games.
"That was a great game for us as a team," he said. "To win a close game like that, after losing so many close games since I've been here, it helped us come together a lot as a team."
The junior logged 50 minutes in that game and tallied seven points. He dished out seven assists, had five steals, and blocked three shots while battling cramps.
Since then, the Hawks have won a couple of close contests. They came away with a one-point victory over Duquesne in overtime in mid-January and made a late comeback on Sunday afternoon to beat Massachusetts by four points on the road.
Williamson has improved his playmaking abilities in his second full season as a point guard. He ranks fifth in the Atlantic 10 in assists per game with 4.71. His 1.98 assist/turnover ratio is good for third in the conference.
"I'm trying to make plays," Williamson said. "And guys are hitting shots for me."
One of the players that he depends on hitting shots for him is fellow junior Darrin Govens, who has a history with the Hawks' defensive specialist.
"We were big rivals in high school," Govens recalled. "He actually ended my senior season [in high school]. I was quite mad at him for a while."
Williamson led Lower Merion past Govens' Chester squad en route to a PIAA Class AAAA State Championship. Needless to say, Govens, who still holds a grudge over that game, was excited to start playing with Williamson, and not against him. "I used to hate that guy," Govens said. "But I love him now that he's my teammate."
Williamson admits he wasn't very fond of Govens in high school, either.
"In high school, the rivalry was always kind of strong between Lower Merion and Chester," Williamson explained. "Playing him my junior year in the state championship, and a bunch of times my senior year--it was like we had a hate for each other."
The two remaining players of a five-man recruiting class have grown close over the past three seasons.
"Now, he's one of my best friends," Williamson said of Govens. "We laugh about [the rivalry] now." Saint Joseph's will be relying on both junior guards to help keep the Hawks near the top of the Atlantic 10 as they enter a tough stretch of games.
After Dayton handed the Hawks their first A-10 loss, Saint Joseph's has won two games in a row, improving its conference record to 7-1, which puts them in second place behind Xavier.
Williamson's unselfish play has allowed players like Carr, Govens and senior Ahmad Nivins to fill up the stat sheet.
But you won't see Williamson looking at any box scores. The only numbers he cares about are the ones under the `W' and the `L'.