CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Da’Monte Williams didn’t put a timetable on his return after tearing his ACL as a senior at Manual. The Peoria product had surgery on December 29th, 2016, meaning he was still in rehab when he arrived in Champaign for his first season with the Illini. Williams was hopeful to suit up as a freshman but redshirting was also a reality.
“To be honest I didn’t think I was going to play at all,” Williams said. “But I came here ready to work everyday to get my knee better and that’s what I did.”
Less than 10 months after surgery, Williams was fully cleared to return to the court, and he’s wasted little time making an impact for the Illini. Williams has earned his way on the floor not by scoring, instead relying on his defense and rebounding. The 6-foot-3 guard is averaging 3.4 boards per game and has 19 steals this season, tied for second most on the team.
“To be that young and to be doing what he’s doing,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “He basically didn’t shoot a ball for a year so you’re going to see some inconsistencies in his shooting and that part of it but for a 17-year old kid to come in and have the impact he’s had on our team after sitting out a year, I’m really impressed with him.”
Da’Monte follows his father’s footsteps in Champaign and we saw a flash from the past last month when Williams made a game winning 3-pointer against Grand Canyon. Frank beat the buzzer at Minnesota back in 2002 to give Illinois a share of the Big Ten title.
“He (Frank) knows I’ve been in the gym shooting those shots everyday so he said, ‘I was expecting you to make that shot.’ I want to become a legend here but I have to put in the work first,” Williams said.