CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Da’Monte Williams is looking to pick up this season in a similar spot to where he left the last one. The Illini senior was playing his best basketball against No. 18 Iowa in the regular season finale, scoring nine points, including two 3-pointers. It proved to be the last game of the 2019-20 season for the Illini, after COVID-19 shut down all sports just four days later.
Fast forward seven months and Williams is now a senior, one of just two scholarship players (Trent Frazier) who are still with the program when Brad Underwood took over in 2017.
“Time flew by fast, I just wanted to come here and give it my all and help the coaches get back to how it was when my dad (Frank Williams) and Dee Brown was here,” Williams said during a Zoom call with media on Tuesday. “Been through a lot of downs since my whole four years here, but we came in here each and every day ready to work, so getting a chance to play in the NCAA tournament will be big.”
Illinois was a lock to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013 before the pandemic canceled all college sports. Despite not scoring a point for more than a month, a stretch of nine straight games, Williams remained in the starting lineup last season. He ended up in the first five players on the court in 22 of the Illini’s last 23 games, averaging just 2.8 points per game for the season.
But what the Peoria native lacks offensively, he brings that and then some defensively. He single handily helped Illinois close out a win over Minnesota in January, taking over the last 90 seconds of the game with a steal, block and several rebounds. Williams had a spark late in the season though offensively, making 5-of-8 three-pointers in the final three games.