SARAH GANZHORN UMass player Chaz Williams shouts to his teammates during a men's basketball game against BYU Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. UMass defeated BYU 105-96.
Boston Celtics general manager and Brigham Young alumnus Danny Ainge cracked a little smile at the shout that came from the stands behind him at the MassMutual Center Saturday, with University of Massachusetts senior Chaz Williams walking to the free-throw line with the Minutemen well ahead.
“Hey Danny, you should draft this guy!”
Ainge didn’t stay to see the point guard finish one of his or anyone else’s best performances in a UMass uniform. Williams had a career-high 32 points and a school-record tying 15 assists in a 105-96 win over Brigham Young. According to ESPN, no college player has had that many points with that many assists in over 10 years.
Impressing Ainge would be one thing, but it’s become hard for Williams to wow UMass observers anymore. He’s put up so many nights of about 18-22 points and 8-12 assists that it’s become expected even though the Minutemen have never had a point guard affect a game as much as he has. The only bar Williams gets measured against as far as point guard play is himself.
But on Saturday, Williams not only got the attention of everyone in the stands, but the attention of CBS Sports Network’s national audience as this was a notable effort even by Williams’ standards. His 15 assists weren’t flashy, just recognition of open teammates. In addition to his usual collection of twisting, leaning, contact-absorbing dives in the lane, he knocked down 5-of-7 3-pointers.
“Everything we had for him he had an answer for,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “The 15 assists were really a killer. He found guys that were wide open. He made five 3s and nine free throws. That’s a combination that’s hard to deal with.”
Playing an opponent that wanted to play as fast as BYU did was a dream scenario for Williams, who has made a career out of thriving with the gas pedal down.
“I feel like I can’t slow down sometimes especially with coach yelling ‘push it, push it,’” Williams said smiling. “It was a fun game.”
As he walked into the postgame press conference, Williams stopped to grab Sampson Carter, Maxie Esho and coach Derek Kellogg bottled water, bringing his unofficial assist total to 18. When he sat down he dished credit almost as well as he dished the ball.
“My teammates made shots. My 15 assists, I credit those guys. They were open. They always tell me if they’re open they’re going to make it and that’s what they did tonight,” Williams said. “I’m not a big point guy. I’m more impressed with the 15 assists than anything. Scoring 32 is a plus. It helped us win, but there’s still more work we can do.”
There wasn’t much more Williams could do. Four of his 15 assists were on 3-pointers, giving him direct or indirect credit for 66 of UMass’ 105 points.
The win is another that could get the NCAA tournament committees attention come March and likely assure the Minutemen another rise in the top 25. Despite that rank, Williams said UMass still feels like hunters rather than the hunted.
“We say there’s a target on our back but we still have a target on everybody else’s back because we’re still just chasing one thing,” he said. “Making it to the NCAA tournament, the national championship.”