by: Alayna Sherk – Staff Writer
John “Jet” Williams is not what you expect when you hear “Harlem Globetrotter.”
At a mere 6 feet 3 inches, Williams is not a towering colossus He is a young entrepreneur when he is not touring with the Globetrotters.
Before he ever smashed a backboard with the Globetrotters, he was a student athlete who brought glory to the Bulldog blue and white.
“I come to Asheville every summer now when I’m done with basketball with the Globetrotters,” Williams said. “I’m happy doing what I’m doing now, and I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t for UNCA.”
Williams was an exceptional athlete before he attended UNC Asheville.
From the tender age of four years old, Williams has been shooting hoops. His parents bought him a little basketball and hoop set for Christmas, and Williams knew it was something special.
“Basketball stuck with me because it was definitely my first love,” Williams said.
Williams’ father was a coach and made it a point to never pamper his son when it came to sports and dedication. As a child, Williams would often ask his father if he could go to the gym with him, but his father would make his priority his team.
“He wanted to make sure I was going to take it seriously before I got into it. I appreciate how he did that,” Williams said. “My dad was my hero. I always looked up to him as a kid. He played some mind games with me to get me in the game. Now I’m in love the game. I haven’t looked back since.”
Williams diversified his sports experience through football, soccer, track, baseball, crew and golf. But his perseverance brought him a stellar high school basketball career as an all-conference and all-state honoree. Williams’ impressive athleticism is what drove UNCA Coach Eddie Biedenbach to recruit him for the Bulldogs.
“Coach B was a great recruiter,” Williams said. “He sold me, and you know, I’m so glad I chose to go to UNCA because I wouldn’t have been able to get myself a ring at any of the other schools I was looking at.”
Williams went on to win a Big South Conference Tournament with Biedenbach and the Bulldogs, as well as their second NCAA tournament win in school history. Williams still holds UNCA’s record for most blocked shots, and remains a local legend in the locker room.
“It hadn’t sunk in until about three weeks after we won,” Williams said. “I was just on cloud nine. I was so excited. I had gotten exhausted from all the screaming and crying and hugging my parents. It was just a blissful situation. I was happy that Coach B helped me to succeed, and I was so happy to get myself a ring because that was what we trained for in college.”
Williams walked away from UNCA with more than just a phenomenal basketball experience. He earned a degree in management while training to win the championship.
“It was a tough time for me. There were a couple of times when I thought about going a different major because of how demanding business management is,” Williams said. “I’ve got to thank my professor and adviser at the time. They told me to hold fast, just work as hard as I can and try to see my way through. At UNCA they push their athletes, there aren’t any special cases, there aren’t any easy handouts. You have to earn everything you can there. Being a real student athlete helped me grow into an adult. Now I really respect the program, I respect the school so much now and I thank them for what they did for me and my development.”
Williams runs his own basketball clinic in his hometown of Raleigh during the Globetrotter’s off-season, and offers some advice for fellow student athletes.
“Just see it through, because the benefits have no limits. It helps you grow up. The student athlete life is very stressful. You’re dealing with coaches, you’re dealing with classes, you have no social life and it’s very hard to compartmentalize everything. You learn how to deal with them, with your time management and dealing with stressful situations. I’m telling you, you’ll be a stronger person if you hang with it.”