Chaz Williams had already led Bishop Ford to its first CHSAA Class A city and state championship and earned recognition as one of the best point guards in the city. But it wasn’t until he put pen to paper Friday afternoon that the senior felt he had silenced his doubters.
Inside the Brooklyn school, the senior point guard signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Hofstra University. Williams was going Division I, the last line of defense for his detractors.
“This,” he said, smiling, "is the most proof I’ve arrived.”
Williams had verbally committed to Hofstra the summer of his sophomore year, but it wasn’t officially a reality until today. There were rumors that he would decommit. False rumors, Williams said, that never came from him.
The dynamic 5-foot-9 guard, who averaged 22 points and 11 assists his junior year, was smitten with the Pride from the start. They were the first major Division I program to take notice. The bond was built during the summer of his first two years at Bishop Ford, when the Falcons played in Hofstra’s Team Camp.
Williams spoke with coach Tom Pecora and assistant Van Macon on several occasions and felt comfortable. Hofstra was known for producing guards and had history making the NCAA Tournament, although not since 2001.
He will also join a plethora of city players – sophomore guards Charles Jenkins and Nathaniel Lester most notably – who Williams has known for several years. They didn’t try to sell the school, Williams said, but told him of the possibilities, what would be expected of him, on the court and off.
“I feel like Hofstra gave the best opportunity to play and the best opportunity to excel,” he said. “I feel like I can make a big difference.”
Friday was an emotional day for him. With his mother Diane, grandmother Emma and brother Kareen Moon by his side, Williams thanked just about everyone he came across, from friends and family to coaches, teammates and classmates. Before his speech ended in the Bishop Ford gymnasium, he paused and exhaled.
There was one person left – his father Calvin, who had passed away from a brain tumor when Williams was 9, the man who introduced him to basketball. Williams stopped playing for a few years after his tragic loss, but picked it up again in junior high school.
“He always told me if I worked hard I would be in this situation,” Williams said. “He was my inspiration. I would like to say that I did this for my father.”
He never imagined his career would turn out this way, didn’t envision city and state championships, nor a college scholarship, certainly not to at such a fine institution such as Hofstra.
But Williams doesn’t see this momentous step as more than just another plateau. He wants to succeed at Hofstra, the same way he has done at Bishop Ford. He predicted the Pride would make the NCAA Tournament by his sophomore season, if not sooner.
“This is the program,” he said, “that will lead me to the next level.”
He has already done that for Bishop Ford. Coach John Infortunio had many inspirational stories to share starting from when he led the Falcons to the JV championship as a freshman. He had Williams by his side when he got the varsity job three years ago, joking “that was part of my contract.”
The most poignant memory came in last March’s city championship victory over Iona Prep when Bishop Ford came from 13 points behind at halftime for a thrilling, 71-64 victory.
“He stood up and said I have to play better,” Infortunio recalled.
Williams finished the game with 30 points, 24 in the second half, willing the Falcons to their first title.
“The impact he’s had on our program I don’t think I can put a number on it or put it into words,” Infortunio said. “He has the ability when the game is on the line and the pressure is turned up to just kick it into another gear.
The third-year coach later added: “He’s the kind of kid you find in the gym when nobody else is around.”
Said his mother Diane: “His ability, work ethic and skills got him here. I can’t ask for anything more.”
A tireless worker, Williams won’t rest. When asked what aspects of his game needed improvement, he said everything. Williams also made sure to note he has unfinished business left at the high-school level. Last March was nice, but the Falcons have unfinished business remaining. They didn’t win the state Federation Class A title, after all.
“I want to win another championship,” he said. “I’m the point guard, I’m the leader so I’ve got to take my guys to the promised land – and that’s to Glens Falls.”