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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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Texas A&M pitcher Chris Cortez (10) reacts during Texas A&M’s game against Oregon at the NCAA Bryan-College Station Super Regional at Olsen Field on Saturday, June 8, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
One step away
June 8, 2024

A promise near fulfillment

Photo by Photo by: Morgan Engel

Freshman forward Robert Williams soars above the opposing team to dunk the ball.

At 14 years old Robert Williams was similar to many teenagers caught between deciding which sport to focus on in high school; for him it was football or basketball. The decision became simple when he dedicated his life to basketball after he became determined to grant his grandmother’s wish after she died that same year.
“When [my grandmother, Shirley Smith] started getting sick my sister [Brittanni Smith] used to stay the night with her in the hospital,” Williams said. “My sister told me that right before she passed she told her to tell me to keep playing basketball and don’t give up. Me and my grandma had a love-hate relationship — we’d argue, cry, she’d hold me, that’s how it was. My sister told me that, and I said, ‘This is it. I’m going to the NBA for her.’”
Five years later, after becoming a top-50 recruit in the country, Williams sits in a star role for Texas A&M as tournament play looms. In 29 games, the 6-foot-9, 237-pound phenom with a 7-foot-5.5 wingspan has reached double-digit points 20 times and also holds 10 doubles-doubles to his name.
“The sky is the limit for him,” A&M point guard J.C. Hampton said. “He’s still so young. You don’t understand how good he really can be. His work ethic has gotten better since I’ve stepped here on campus.”
The 19-year-old has become a household name around not only College Station, but across the country. Currently, Williams is projected to be a lottery pick (top 14) in this year’s NBA Draft. And if Williams is picked in the lottery, he would become the highest drafted Aggie in Texas A&M program history ahead of Antoine Wright, who was picked 15th in 2005 by the New Jersey Nets.
“I just play basketball, that’s all I can do,” Williams said of the hype he hears about himself. “I hear it day in and day out, people call me, text me and send me mock drafts. Of course I like it because it’s new to me, but I guess at some point it’s like, I get it, y’all are sending me the same stuff every day, I get it. I can go to the NBA, I get that. Just let me live, let me play my game day by day. Whatever happens, happens.”
In addition to scoring, Williams’ emergence as one of the best big men in the country stems from his ability to get rebounds and protect the rim. The Vivian, Louisiana, native is second in the SEC in rebounds per game with 7.9 and 17th in the country in blocks with 2.6 per outing.
“I mean you don’t want to miss a shot but when you have a guy like Robert you expect him to get the rebound,” said Williams’ teammate Tonny Trocha-Morelos. “When I see the double team I just shoot it. I’m like, ‘Okay if I don’t make it I know he’s going to get it.’”
Williams knew he was something special as early as high school, something that’s only grown throughout his time in college.
“In high school I knew I was good against the talent I was playing against,” Williams said. “People are going to tell you you’re going to do this and do that but in this world there are great players out there. My godfather [Ricky Evans], who was my AAU coach, used to tell me ‘You’re special, I’m telling you I’ve been around a lot of basketball players but you’re special.’”
Williams was a four-star recruit out of Caddo High School and was touted as the No. 1 player in Louisiana. Both he and A&M head coach Billy Kennedy call the Pelican State home.
“It was fun,” Williams said of being recruited by Kennedy. “I knew coach Kennedy well because he talked to me every day of the week. Sometimes he would fly down just to see me and talk to me for 30 minutes. I was like ‘Man, he really wants me.’ It was cool we had the Louisiana connection.”
Williams grew up in Vivian, a small town 31 miles north of Shreveport with a population of roughly 3,600 people. He said he feels extremely proud to represent his town as he becomes more and more well-known.
“I love my town so much,” Williams said. “It feels great to say I’m from there. My best childhood memory was playing little league basketball, like getting up on Saturday mornings at 8 and laying the uniform out getting ready to put it on. You’re getting ready to play against all your friends. Those were the best memories.”
Williams chose A&M over Baylor, LSU and Mississippi State and was influenced on his official visit by his current teammates, who made him feel at home.
“I can honestly sit here and say every one of my teammates, I’d die for,” Williams said. “They’re my brothers, no doubt. When I first saw Tyler [Davis], I asked DJ [Hogg], ‘Does he really act like this?’ And he was like ‘Yeah this is really how he acts.’ So when I saw DJ, Admon [Gilder], Tyler, I knew this was a family and we could be really good. So I wanted to come here.”
Williams is averaging 11.7 points per game over the season but in conference play he’s managed to average 12.5. He said he began to realize that he was becoming a great college player a month before SEC play against Virginia Tech and that his game has made strides since he first step foot on campus.
“I think [I’ve grown] physically and mentally as far as preparing myself for games and for practice,” Williams said. “Physically I feel like every day I’m in the weight room. I feel like I’ve gotten so much bigger. And I know I’ve still got a long way to go but the strength and conditioning coach got me right.”
Williams was able to attend a Nike Camp heading into his senior year of high school and was given strong advice from arguably the best basketball player on the planet, LeBron James.
After coming to terms with playing with one of his idols, then-17-year-old Williams said he learned a lot from the experience. Williams laughed about one occasion when he didn’t stick his hand out for a pass from James because it was as fast as a “bullet.”
“[Lebron] just told us basically no matter if it was in basketball or whatever it is in life, to commit to it fully,” Williams said. “If you’re going to do something, do it the right way and give it your all. I think of that advice every day. You’ve got to give it your all because if you don’t then there’s no point in doing it. That’s just how it is.”
Sitting at 16-13 overall and 8-9 in SEC play, the NCAA Tournament is likely out of reach for the Aggies unless they win the SEC Tournament. The maroon and white are currently projected to sneak into the NIT but still have to play Kentucky in the final regular season game.
Williams said his goal for the remainder of the season is to become more of a leader by being louder and to send the two seniors on the team, Hampton and Tavario Miller, out on a positive note.
“Personally I feel like I need to start talking more, on offense and defense,” Williams said. “I feel like I don’t talk a lot. I have to be vocal on the court with my teammates. Team-wise, just got to finish strong for the two seniors. They may never play basketball again so to finish strong and have fun.”
After the season Williams will be eligible for the NBA Draft. Kennedy explained he would meet with Williams and his family to make a decision on his future. In Texas A&M’s win over Alabama on Feb. 25 — where Williams led the team in scoring and had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds — the A&M crowd began chanting, “One more year.”
“Everyone’s projecting him as a lottery pick,” Kennedy said. “Robert loves being an Aggie so it doesn’t hurt my feelings at all to hear them yelling for one more year. I’d love a lot of people chanting that Saturday because he’s got a lot of people screaming ‘you’ve got to get out of here.’ He’s a heck of a talent. We’re just blessed to have him.”
One of the things people will miss most about Williams if he’s drafted is his emphatic dunks. Williams joked that he’s no doubt the best dunker on the team.
“From my perspective I don’t see what’s so special about [dunking],” Williams said. “I’ve been doing it since 10th, 11th grade. But when I do it everyone’s like, ‘Oh, did you see him?’  A dunk is a dunk, but it makes people happy. My favorite showtime dunk is either a monster — just come off two feet and cock it back — or a windmill.”
After everything he has accomplished throughout high school and college, from averaging 21 points at Caddo High School to being named SEC Freshman of the Week on multiple occasions, Williams believes his grandmother would be delighted with how he’s developed.
“Oh my goodness, she would be so proud,” Williams said with a grin. “I can just see the smile on her face. If she could just see me now all grown up, because I was so young when she passed, she’d be proud.”

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  • Robert Williams rises up between two defenders.

  • Robert Williams said one of his goals is to be more vocal on the court.

  • Freshman forward Robert Williams dunked the ball three times against the Tigers on Wednesday night.

    Photo by Photo by: Morgan Engel
  • Freshman forward Robert Williams has averaged 12.9 points per game and 9.6 rebounds.

    Photo by File
  • Freshman forward Robert Williams sings the Aggie War Hymn alongside fans and teammates. 

    Photo by Photo by: Morgan Engel
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