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Former South star Williams returns to Atlanta

ATLANTA - Lou Williams begins his own radio show in Philadelphia on Sunday, but that hardly means that he is thinking about a second career.

Quite the contrary.

After two years of more sitting than playing, the South Gwinnett hoops wunderkind is finally getting some time to shine in his third NBA season.

Unfortunately, he didn't Monday night at Philips Arena.

Coming off a 20-point game, Williams and a large contingent from South Gwinnett were hoping for a triumphant homecoming.

It didn't happen.

When Williams, averaging 11 points per game, scored on a nice drive late in the first quarter, the Philadelphia 76ers led the Atlanta Hawks by 20 points.

Nothing went right for Williams or his team afterwards, however, as the Hawks rallied for the 96-91 victory.

"It was like two different games," 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks said.

Williams, known as Louis in high school, did have one highlight moment, though, slamming down a tomahawk dunk shortly before his layup.

"When you get a start like that, you always feel like it's going to be a big game," Williams said.

Instead, the only thing big was the 76ers' early lead and the Hawks' comeback.

But Williams, who went into the NBA draft right out of high school, is now used to both ups and downs.

"Never. Not at all," the 21-year-old said when asked if he had any second thoughts about bypassing his scholarship to Georgia. "I've always been comfortable with my decision and I feel good about how I've developed.

"It was a slow process, slower than I hoped. But now I'm starting to show what I always thought I could do."

Williams finished with just the four points against the Hawks - seven below his average.

No one is questioning if he has a solid NBA future anymore, however.

"He's stepped up his game this season," Cheeks said. "He has the ability to score and he's learning the NBA game as he goes."

Size-wise, the slender Williams - playing 24 minutes a game off the bench - is more suited to play the point. But it is his instant offense that sets him apart.

"He's still learning to be a point guard," said Cheeks, a standout at the position during his NBA playing career. "He's played there and as the (shooting guard). Right now, it's too early to lock him into one position and say that's where he'll belong."

A schedule conflict with the 76ers' morning shoot around prevented Williams for speaking at South Gwinnett as originally hoped, but he still had a busy two days back in Georgia. On Sunday night, he hosted an event to benefit the youth foundation he began late last season.

Now is has to start getting ready for his Philadelphia radio show on The Beat 100.3-FM. He will be on the air from noon to 4 p.m. each Sunday.

"I have total editorial control," Williams said. "I'll talk about anything I want."

Does he have his first show set? "Not yet," the budding DJ said. "Our schedule has been pretty tight. I'll sit down Wednesday and Thursday to get a game plan for the show."

Williams is no novice when it comes to radio, having spent plenty of time in the studio. His stepfather, Mitch Faulkner, is a highly regarded voiceover specialist.

But basketball remains Williams' true passion and his connection to Snellville remains rock solid.

Through his foundation, 126 people attended the game against the Hawks. Part of the gathering in Section 111 was the current South Gwinnett team.

Other Williams fans were scattered around Philips Arena, making themselves heard when their favorite slammed down his dunk.

"I went through the locker room getting as many tickets as I could (from teammates)," Williams said.

Janice Faulkner, Williams' mother, was easy to spot. She was wearing a red Sixers jersey with her son's No. 23 on the back.

"Everyone is excited about him getting to play," she said. "The last two seasons, it was hard for us to see him not get that much of a chance."

Williams will become a restricted free agent after the season, meaning the 76ers will have an opportunity to match any contract offer from another team.

"This is a big season for me," Williams said. "I like it in Philadelphia, but we'll have to see what happens."

The first Atlanta homecoming of his third NBA season wasn't what he hoped.

But he'll get another chance to show off for the home folks when the 76ers return to play the Hawks on April 4.

SideBar: The Williams File

Who: Louis "Lou" Williams

Team: Philadelphia 76ers

High school: South Gwinnett

Age: 21

Position: Guard

Size: 6-foot-2, 175 pounds

How acquired: 45th overall pick in 2005 draft

Season stats: Averaging 11.0 points and 3.3 assists while playing 22.4 minutes per game.

Career numbers: 6 points and 2 assists per game in third NBA season.

High school honors: Naismith Award national player of year in 2005. . . Mr. Georgia Basketball as junior and senior. . . . Set state record with 3,388 career points for South Gwinnett.

Did you know?: Recently formed the Lou Williams Foundation to help empower youth through athletics and education. . . . Hosts local summer basketball camp. . . . On Sunday will begin weekly radio show in Philadelphia.