WASHINGTON – For the first time ever, the Big Ten Tournament is being played in Washington. For most players, that means a longer trip, but for Ohio State’s Kam Williams, it meant coming home.
Williams is from Baltimore, about 40 miles north of Washington. His parents, Lorrie Green and Kevin Williams, still live there, so it isn’t often that they get to watch him play in person.
Baltimore to Columbus is about a seven-hour drive on I-70, and road games aren’t usually any easier with only three other Big Ten teams a shorter drive from home.
The junior guard doesn’t like to think about that, though. Even when his family can’t make it to a game, he still feels connected to them.
Before each game, Williams says a prayer for them, helping him feel like they’re close even when they’re not.
“I know they’re watching over me every game,” Williams said. “It’s just like they’re right back in the living room with me watching TV.”
Williams had offers from closer schools, like Towson, Virginia Tech, Virginia and VCU, but instead the four-star Mount St. Joseph High School player chose the Buckeyes. After attending the Ohio State-University of California, Berkeley, football game in 2012, Williams was sold.
“They showed me what a big-time atmosphere is all about,” Williams told The Columbus Dispatch. “But the thing that stood out to me was, later that night, people were still walking the streets relishing their win, slapping high fives, giving hugs. They really embrace their sports at Ohio State.”
In his three years at Ohio State, Williams has transitioned from a raw freshman to a starting upperclassman. After Keita Bates-Diop went down with a stress fracture in his leg that held him out for the season, Williams was asked to fill the hole.
Williams provided the Buckeyes with perimeter shooting, making 37.6 percent of his 3-pointers and bringing almost 10 points per game to the table.
He’s done it all while living away from his family, but his pregame ritual has helped Williams get used to not seeing them in the stands, so much so that playing in front of them on Wednesday didn’t change the game for him.
“It wasn’t really anything different, it was just a regular game on the schedule,” he explained. “I didn’t really think about it too much.”
Williams would rather concentrate on the task at hand rather than dwell on location.
“I try to focus on the game as much as possible so that it won’t be a distraction to me and my teammates,” Williams said.
Unfortunately for the Williams family, the game didn’t go their way.
Ohio State lost 66-57 to Rutgers on Wednesday night in its opening game of the tournament, shortening the reunion.
Williams went back to Columbus with the rest of the Buckeyes, and his parents will stay home in Baltimore. Although the trip was short-lived, Williams enjoyed the time he spent close to his hometown.
“It’s good to come back home and see your parents watching you in person,” he said. “It’s always good to come back on the East Coast.”