He was always a winner — until he came to Rutgers.
Former Bishop Loughlin basketball star Mike Williams was used to success on the hardwood, but the one-time Lion struggled to find his rhythm when he landed at Rutgers two seasons ago. The Scarlet Knights won just 17 games in Williams’s first two years with the program. But he plans to change that this year.
“It humbled me a lot, because coming out of high school, I was used to winning everywhere I went. And my first two years of college basketball, I was losing,” Williams said. “I want to help change that.”
Williams and his Scarlet Knights teammates, under brand-new head coach Steve Pikiell, are determined to turn around the culture in New Brunswick, sparked by a bit of much-needed Brooklyn grit. The squad opened the season 6–0 and, despite a Nov. 30 loss at Miami, Williams is more confident than ever in this team.
“Everybody on this team has a different attitude [than before],” he said. “Even if we don’t always make shots or things aren’t going our way, we don’t let that affect us. I think we’re very mature on this team, and that’s helped us a lot.”
The Bedford–Stuyvesant native came off the bench in each of Rutgers’s first eight games, but that hasn’t hurt his confidence. In fact, he’s just as certain as ever that he can add a spark to the Scarlet Knights’ backcourt, averaging 11.3 points in just over 24 minutes a game this year.
Williams is shooting a career-best 46.9 percent from the field and, after leading the team with 50 three-pointers last season, already has 15 treys to his name.
“I like to think of myself as play-maker, because I feel like I’m able to help start things on the court,” Williams said. “I can help my teammates and myself, and I always want to come up in clutch situations.”
Williams’ taste for success began far before his career at Rutgers, or even two AA intersectional final appearances at Bishop Loughlin. It began on the sidewalks in Brooklyn, growing up with a basketball in his hand and a desire that is just as fierce as ever.
“We have that attitude and that belief that no one is going to walk all over us,” Williams said. “If we’re on, it’s going to be a long night for everyone playing against us. I feel like Brooklyn basketball players are kind of us against the world.”
Williams never wanted to go too far from home — he turned down offers from programs such as Iowa, Creighton, and Virginia — and he knew Rutgers was the best fit for him, despite the early bumps in the road.
“I’m a New York boy — a Brooklyn boy — and it was an opportunity to come here and play near home,” he said. “And it was a chance to play in the best conference in the country and get a great academic experience.”
The Scarlet Knights don’t start league play until later this month, but Williams is certain Rutgers can continue its turnaround against Big 10 competition. After all, this team knows what it feels like to win now.
“This isn’t the same team from the last few years,” Williams said. “I feel like it’s an honor, me being a part of this. It feels good to be on the winning side with this team.”