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Elgin's Arie Williams is The Courier-News Player of the Year after leading the area with 22.1 points per game and 102 three-pointers. | Michael R. Schmidt ~ For Sun-Times Media
It might seem like Arie Williams eats, sleeps and breathes basketball, but the Elgin senior does have some other outlets.
“I’m into video editing and working with computers,” Williams said. “I’m kind of a little techie outside of basketball.”
But even these other interests often lead back to Williams’ No. 1 passion.
When it comes to video editing, Williams has a reputation for putting together a killer basketball highlight package. His favorite video game is NBA 2K. Williams hopes to major in computer science in college, and don’t be surprised if he finds a way to inject his love of hoops into his studies.
“Arie loves college basketball, he loves NBA basketball, and he’ll even talk junior high basketball with you if you want,” Elgin coach Mike Sitter said. “He’s a student of the game and he works on it 365 days a year.”
This season Williams combined his love of the game, his noteworthy talent and his newfound status as the go-to player for the Maroons, to produce a phenomenal senior year.
The 5-foot-9 point guard led the area in scoring at 22.1 points per game and landed Upstate Eight River Player of the Year honors. He also drained an area-best 102 three-pointers, dished out 4.4 assists and posted 2.4 steals per game.
Williams can add the distinction of being the 2013 Courier-News Player of the Year to his impressive list of accomplishments.
Stepping into a lead role
Williams’ monster season capped a prolific four-year career in which he scored 1,350 points, putting him fourth on Elgin’s all-time scoring list behind Sean Harrington (2,119 points), older brother Armani Williams (1,744) and Mark Baugh (1,536).
But this season was different from the rest for Williams, who in his first three years at the varsity level was more of a pass-first point guard on talented Maroons teams that won a pair of conference and regional titles. Williams was the only member of Elgin’s main rotation from those successful squads to return for the 2012-13 campaign.
“Arie was asked to do something he has never done before and that’s be a score-first point guard,” Sitter said. “He accepted that role and started working hard on that in the summer and liked the challenge of being the guy everybody is looking to shut down.
“He knew he was a marked man every time he stepped on the court, and he stepped up and met the challenge and then some.”
Williams topped the 20-point mark in 18 of Elgin’s 28 games, including a career-high 39-point effort in a double-overtime loss at Larkin. He saved his biggest highlights for the Elgin Holiday Tournament when he drained a halfcourt buzzer beater to cap an improbable comeback in the first round, followed that with another game-winning shot in the second round and then engineered an upset of high-flying Las Vegas Centennial in the third round.
When Williams wasn’t scoring he was breaking down defenders with his ball-handling and passing skills. On the other end of the court he maintained his status as one of the area’s best on-ball defenders, all the while helping the Maroons overachieve to the tune of a 14-14 record.
But Williams will be remembered most for his long-range prowess. He never met a three-point shot he didn’t like, and this year he knocked down the majority of his treys by going 102-for-197 from beyond the arc.
“I knew coming into the year I was going to get double teamed and maybe even triple teamed,” Williams said. “Over the summer I really worked on creating my own space and extending my range even more.”
Offering outsized contributions
Williams counts his brother Armani and his father L.A. Williams as his two biggest basketball influences.
Both Williams brothers made their name as prolific sharpshooters, with Armani Williams finishing his four-year varsity career at Elgin as the school record holder in career three-pointers (336) and single-season three-pointers (114). The main difference between the siblings is Armani is 6-foot-3, six inches taller than Arie.
Being undersized has always been an issue for Williams, and it is likely the leading reason why he hasn’t received any Division I offers to date. While he can do nothing to change his lack of height, Williams does seek out inspiration from others who share his plight.
“I watch so much film of NBA players and college players,” Williams said. “I really look up to Allen Iverson and Kyrie Irving and guys that are my height. I take what I see off You Tube and movies and put it into my game.”
Given his lack of physical stature, Williams needed to find ways to get every ounce out of his 160-pound frame. An insatiable work ethic helped him accomplish the task.
“There was one day where Arie got in the gym a couple hours before practice and the baskets were up,” Sitter said. “Most kids wouldn’t do anything, but Arie put chairs out on the court and worked on ballhandling by himself until coaches could get there and put the baskets down.
“He was sweating and working hard and there were chairs spread all over the court. I thought that was pretty impressive for a 17-year-old kid to take that kind of initiative.”
Sitter expects Williams to take the same approach when he arrives at the next level, wherever that may be.
Northern Illinois and Chicago State are two Division I programs that have shown an interest in Williams. He has also attracted attention from a number of Division II schools, most notably the University of Tampa and Barry University in Miami.
“I don’t just want to go to a team where I will wear a jersey and sit on the bench my whole four years,” Williams said. “I want to go to a team where I can actually play and develop.”
If the past four years are any indication, Williams will continue to raise his game once he arrives in college.
But regardless of where Williams lands, he’ll always have the satisfaction of knowing he carved out his own distinct place in the storied history of Elgin basketball.
“I’ve seen so many players go through Elgin since I was growing up,” Williams said. “There were times my brother would be playing upstairs in the big gym and I’d be downstairs shooting in the lower gym with the lights off. It’s kind of funny how far I came, and I’m really honored to be a part of it.”
COURIER-NEWS PLAYER OF THE YEAR HONOR ROLL
1973-74 — Terry Drake, Elgin
1974-75 — Derrick Mayes, Elgin
1975-76 — Dale Bernhard, Crown
1976-77 — Rick Garrison, St. Charles
1977-78 — Jerry Howell, Crown
1978-79 — Ike Person, Barrington
1979-80 — Gary Gliesmann, Crown
1980-81 — Gary Gliesmann, Crown
1981-82 — Jeff Condill, Barrington
1982-83 — Tom Schafer, Jacobs
1983-84 — Tony Burnell, St. Charles
1984-85 — Mark Slimko, Jacobs
1985-86 — Dan Hill, Woodstock
1986-87 — Mark Baugh, Elgin
1987-88 — Dana Jackson, CL South
1988-89 — J.P. Brens, St. Charles
1989-90 — Randy Engel, Larkin
1990-91 — Randy Engel, Larkin
1991-92 — Chris Payne, St. Edward
1992-93 — Sherick Simpson, Larkin
1993-94 — Chris Hibbs, CL South
1994-95 — Rodney Clifton, Elgin
1995-96 — Ben Schifferer, Marengo
1996-97 — Sean Harrington, Elgin
1997-98 — Sean Harrington, Elgin
1998-99 — Sean Harrington, Elgin
1999-00 — Marcus Smallwood, Elgin
2000-01 — Jason Kalsow, Huntley
2001-02 — Anthony Maestranzi, Bartlett
2002-03 — Eric Vierneisel, Jacobs
2003-04 — C.C. Kilbert, Dundee-Crown
2004-05 — Dayvon Ellis, Larkin
2005-06 — Dayvon Ellis, Larkin
2006-07 — John Moran, Jacobs
2007-08 — John Moran, Jacobs
2008-09 — Jeff Beck, Dundee-Crown
2009-10 — Tommy Childs, South Elgin
2010-11 — Kory Brown, Elgin
2011-12 — Kory Brown, Elgin
2012-13 — Arie Williams, Elgin