Eric Williams Jr. was the first high school recruit to commit to Keith Dambrot after the coach signed on last March to resurrect Duquesne’s scuffling basketball program. That commitment now figures to pay big dividends for the first-year coach.
Williams starred at New Haven High School in Michigan, leading the Rockets to the Class B state championship as a senior while averaging a team-leading 20 points and six rebounds a game. He scored 14 points in the state final against Ludington and was named the Prep Hoops Class B Player of the Year.
In a playoff win over Fraser, Williams scored a career-high 50 points, going 20-of-26 from the field, and followed that up with a 40-point effort against Warren Woods-Tower. Despite all his success, Williams was largely under recruited; Dambrot said as much in the team’s 2017-18 prospectus:
“Eric is a guy we feel may have been a little under-recruited. He’s a long 6-5 left-hander that can score – he had 50 points in a high school game. Getting used to the college game and the physical grind of it all is going to be the biggest adjustment for him.”
Duquesne must replace more than 50 percent of its scoring from a year ago, and the shooting guard looks to fill the void by all indications.
“Williams is explosive,” Dambrot said of his freshman wing. “You don’t score 50 in a game unless you’re good, and he’s got some deficiencies we have to work on, but he’s pretty far along for a young kid.”
Last week, Pittsburgh Sports Now introduced fellow Dukes freshman, Tydus Verhoeven. Both Williams and Verhoeven were running along side returning starters Mike Lewis II and Tarin Smith in practice.
“I think they’ve pretty much earned time already,” Dambrot said of Williams and Verhoeven, and he has been consistent in communicating what he expects of both players.
“Coach and I talk almost every day,” Williams said of Dambrot. “He’s just telling me to stay up, because it’s going to be a big year for Tydus and me as freshmen. We’re going to have big roles so we need to stay calm and play older than we are.”
Physically, Williams is prepared for the rigors of college basketball. His body compares to that of a sophomore or junior who has spent significant time in the weight room. His strength and physical maturity will serve him well as a wing.
“Pretty much catch and shoot, play defense, drive and attack, get out in transition—normal things as a wing,” Williams said of his expected responsibilities. “I think I just need to do my job, and we’ll be good.”
The freshman guard is looking forward to the challenge of the season and believes the Dukes can win in year one under Dambrot despite the team being picked last in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll.
“I think we can win games,” Williams said. “I’m excited just as everyone else.”