UMass has now gone more than 15 years without making the NCAA tournament. And were it not for a request from its stud point guard Chaz Williams, it would likely be at least another year of waiting for that program and its fans.
Williams, who we rank as the 58th best player in the country, waffled on whether to leave school over the summer and take a pro contract in Turkey. He was reportedly excited about the idea, but ultimately torn on what to do. It was only because he asked for a couple more days -- days that gave him time to decide to return to UMass -- that the Minutemen still have arguably the best player in the conference for the season ahead.
Yahoo's Jeff Eisenberg has the story on Williams' unexpected offer that took place in August.
A representative from a Turkish pro team offered Williams the chance to skip his senior year with the Minutemen and begin his pro career overseas. Some brief negotiations soon yielded Williams a contract offer worth $150,000 and an agreement that the team would pay for his mother Diane and three-year-old daughter Cheree to join him in Istanbul as well.
"It seemed like everything he asked for they kept giving to him," Diane Williams said. "He told them, 'My mom and my daughter need to come out here too.' They were like, 'Alright, we'll get plane tickets. He said, 'But where are we going to live?' They said, 'We'll hook your family up with their own flat and they'll have their own personal car.' When he told me all of that, I was like, 'Oh wow.' That was a pretty great offer out of the gate."
Williams' mother said her son was initially enthusiastic enough about turning pro that he requested she begin investigating what there was to do in Istanbul and where the best schools were for Cheree. Only after asking the Turkish team to extend its deadline five days did Williams finally reject the offer in late August, opting instead to return to UMass in hopes of making his first NCAA tournament, finishing his degree and putting himself in position to coach one day once his playing career is over.
"I thought about it long and hard," Williams said. "I want my daughter to have the best and I really wanted to provide her with the things I haven't been able to in years past, but I felt like coming back to school would be better. I can set an example for my daughter and finish my degree. And I had unfinished business here. We lost in the first round of the NIT last year. That left a real bitter taste in my mouth and I didn't want to leave on that note."
It's important to note that Williams, more than likely, does not have a future in the NBA. He'll be a typical A-10 player, meaning he'll graduate and go make a good living playing overseas for a decade. With that in mind, it's all the more impressive that he resisted temptation and stayed true to his team. If Williams had left UMass in August, the team would've been in a huge hole. I certainly wouldn't have picked it to win the A-10, and in reality Williams carries hopes for an NCAA tournament bid this season.
But he's back, and the top of the Atlantic 10 will be better because of it. We've seen a few players opt to leave school to take overseas contracts in hopes that will boost their chances at making in the NBA. Williams had plenty of reasons to do the same -- and one huge reason not to.