The Jacksonville State University men's basketball team defeats West Georgia in an exhibition game in Pete Mathews Coliseum. ..Jacksonville State Gamecocks guard Brian Williams (21).
James Green admitted he was a little hesitant to play Brian Williams early in the 2010-11 basketball season.
The true freshman wasn't vocal enough for Green, who preferred a more take-charge player as his point guard.
"When he first came here, he seemed like a very quiet guy because he didn't say much," Green said. "Then all of a sudden, I found out he's one of our most vocal guys. Now he's a comedian. I can get on him and 10 minutes later he's joking with you. But he has a great personality and a great temperament."
Now a sophomore, Williams is using his leadership skills and his basketball talents to fuel a young Jacksonville State team. The Central Gwinnett grad plays point guard, as well as some two-guard, on a small team (the team's tallest player is 6-foot-7).
Williams, the team's leading scorer at 12.4 points per game, rarely leaves the floor. He averages a team-high 34.8 minutes and his closest teammate averages 27.5 (nobody else averages more than 23).
"(Williams) is very competitive," Green said. "We require a lot of him and he handles it well. I'm excited to have him the next two years. He's a guy that will help change this program the next two years."
After he proved himself to Green last season, Williams was a fixture in the lineup. As a freshman, he played in all 30 games, the first 20 as a reserve and the last 10 as a starter.
He averaged 4.6 points and 1.5 assists, boosting his numbers late in the season. That momentum carried into this season, when the Ohio Valley Conference team needed the 6-foot-1, 170-pounder in a lead role instead of a supporting one.
Williams said he's playing with the confidence he had his final two seasons at Central, a high school career that was capped with a Class AAAAA Final Four finish.
"I've adjusted more to the college level and my teammates have supported me and helped me out," Williams said. "I can see the court better now. I make smarter passes and smarter decisions."
Williams has 75 assists (3.4 per game) to 45 turnovers, and has been efficient offensively (hitting 35 of 99 3-pointers).
"Toward the end of last season his role started to change," Green said. "He had been in a position as a backup who played significant minutes. This year, he's grown into a very solid guard in the OVC."
Williams would like to see his play result in a few more victories, though. Jacksonville State is 8-14 overall and 3-6 in the conference, but is riding a two-game winning streak after beating Tennessee Tech and Eastern Illinois.
"It's been up and down (this season), but we've won two in a row and got our confidence back," Williams said. "Hopefully we'll get another one this weekend. We're on the uprise. We're doing good things and hopefully we'll upset some teams. ... We definitely want to surprise some teams in the conference tournament and see if we can make it to the NCAA Tournament."
Tiffany Clarke of Norcross had 13 points and 12 rebounds Thursday night as Vanderbilt beat No. 17 Georgia 68-48. Wesleyan's Anne Marie Armstrong led UGA with 15 points. ... Blanche Alverson had a team-high 16 points on 6 of 12 shooting last Sunday, but Auburn still lost 62-57 at Mississippi State. Mill Creek grad Porsha Porter had nine points and three assists for MSU. Alverson followed it up with a team-high 15 points Thursday (on 6 of 11 shooting) in a 66-48 loss to sixth-ranked Kentucky.
Bellavance, Lewis named all-conference
Parkview grad Kenny Bellavance, a junior at North Georgia, and Brookwood grad Ryan Lewis, a senior at Columbus State, were two of the three outfielders on the 13-player Peach Belt Conference All-Conference Team released this week.
Bellavance was a first-team all-conference selection as a sophomore, when he hit .317 with two home runs and 35 RBIs. His 71 hits were first on the team and among the conference leaders.
Lewis, also a returning first-team selection, hit .360 last season with eight homers and 37 RBIs, ranking among the league leaders in six categories.
Freeman wins twice
The Georgia swimming and diving team concluded the dual-meet portion of its home schedule with a victory over Tennessee, getting some help from former Greater Atlanta Christian standout Will Freeman.
Freeman won a pair of events, the 1,000 freestyle in 9 minutes, 4.23 seconds and the 200 butterfly in 1:49.94.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.