Rich Williams hasn’t forgotten where he came from. Now one of the top players in the MAAC, Manhattan College’s leading scorer is fueled by his city.
“A New York City kid has a little bit of grit to them,” Brooklyn native Williams told amNewYork. “You just want to come play, you want to ball under any type of circumstances. Rain, snow, sleet, we still out there hooping. That’s a New York mentality we have. I can never not have a New York fire to me.”
Williams developed that passion on the blacktops of Canarsie Park, just off the Belt Parkway. But for many of those early years, long-term basketball success wasn’t realistic.
“When I was in eighth grade, I was 5-foot-6, I was a little guy,” he said. “But one summer, I shot up to 6-foot-2, so I was like, ‘Man, I got the height at this point. Why not?’ ”
The growth spurt helped him to a solid career at Transit Tech High School in East New York. There, Williams became close with Rhamel Brown, a Brownsville product who went on to become a 1,000-point scorer with the Jaspers.
“What I saw was a man from Brownsville, turn into this preppy college kid,” Williams said. “He got an education, still had some Brooklyn in him. He knew what he wanted out of life, and beyond basketball, I knew he was a better person.”
Williams has gone from averaging 4.4 points coming off the bench his freshman season to pacing Manhattan with 16.9 per game as a senior. From the first moment he stepped on the court as a Jasper, he knew he had what it took.
“I was the young man on the block,” Williams said. “I knew I could compete. The older guys knew the system better. My talent was there. It was just about learning the game and system.”
Manhattan (4-5) could have used the 6-6 guard last year after he was redshirted due to an early-season injury, finishing last in the MAAC. With their best player back, he believes they can turn it around.
“We have to worry about the little things because the little things are what win the big games.”