A fourth-team Parade All-American, Williams was ranked No. 28 nationally by recruiting guru Bob Gibbons, No. 32 by HoopScoop, and No. 42 by the Recruiter's Handbook.
"I was the type of guy who played hard, played smart and played to win," said Williams. "I felt that if I did that everything else would take care of itself.
"I remember being told going into my senior year that if I averaged around 30 points a game I could get to play in the McDonald's game, but that wasn't me. I was about winning. I won three state titles in high school, and that mattered to me more. I bet probably none of the guys in my class who made that game could say they won three state titles."
Recruited by nearly every program in the country, Williams had plenty of options. A 6-foot-4 wing capable of playing shooting guard or small forward, Williams was a terrific defensive player and accomplished scorer. He eventually selected NC State after considering programs such as Georgia Tech, Memphis, Auburn, Cincinnati, and Marquette among others.
"I was recruited by just about every team except Duke and North Carolina," said Williams. "Because they didn't recruit me I told myself I would go play in their league so I could play against them. At that time they were only taking McDonald's All-Americans, and I felt like I was on that level. I'm telling you, deep down I wanted to get back at Duke and North Carolina for not recruiting me.
"I had so many opportunities, but I decided that State was a real good situation for me. When I went down for my visit I had a great time. The guys treated me well, and I connected with the coaches. I met with Cliff Crawford and Damien Wilkins, the other two members of my class, and we clicked. I looked at what was returning and was comfortable with the situation and believed it was a strong fit."
Williams arrived in Raleigh the fall of 1999 and instantly worked his way into the rotation. He played 20 games for NC State and averaged 19.9 minutes, 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. He scored double figures in five games, including a season-high 17 points against Liberty, and made two starts. Against Yale he totaled 10 points and a game-high five steals, and at Duke he scored 12 points, including a game-tying basket off an intentional miss that sent the game into overtime. Williams vividly remembers that play.
"I won't ever forget that one," he said, laughing. "If I remember correctly they had just made a questionable call on Justin [Gainey], and Duke had a lot of momentum.
"Obviously on a play like what happened you can't draw it up to work perfectly, but we had discussions about how to try and miss the free throw and how we were going to crash in for the rebound. I crashed in, the ball came to me, and I put it back to send the game to OT. That was definitely a memorable play for me."
A knee injury would end his freshman season. Williams believe he injured his knee against Georgia Tech in a collision with Yellow Jacket forward Jason Collier. He played a couple more games with pain before he realized after the game at Maryland that he needed to have it examined.
"I remember telling the coaches up at Maryland that I was having a lot of pain," said Williams. "We ran some tests and it was a knee injury... I had a lateral meniscus tear. For that I needed arthroscopic knee surgery to repair it.
"With those injuries doctors normally shave down the tear but they ended up taking out more. Obviously when you tear a meniscus it isn't going to be the same, but I guess they felt that removing it instead of shaving it down would be better for me. They took the thing out, which we didn't really appreciate, and it took me longer to return than it probably should have. I guess the doctors made an educated decision to take it out, and we didn't fully understand that until years later."
With Williams on the sidelines NC State proceeded to lose its next six games, all league contests, before winning the season finale against Florida State and the first ACC Tournament game versus Virginia.
State was selected to play in the NIT and advanced to Madison Square Garden where the Pack was defeated by Wake Forest (62-59) and Penn State (74-72) to finish the year 20-14. Williams still feels that had he not been injured he could have helped the team win more games.
"Things went down hill for us late in the year," he stated. "I do believe I was a big part of the team, and we had a long losing streak when I went out. We had a lot of guys who could score the basketball at State but my strength was defense. I could score, and I know the coaches knew I could score, but I earned my minutes by playing strong defense and being a team player. I was a bigger guard who was versatile and could defend multiple positions.
"I was actually supposed to make it back to play in the ACC Tournament, but my knee wasn't cleared in time. To this day I think back to that year and how we had things clicking. I got a lot of playing time, more than freshmen normally get, and the coaches depended on me a lot. I contributed... it was a great experience."
Following the season Williams began to evaluate his options. He had fun hanging with the players and really liked the coaching staff, but as a college freshman homesickness had set in. That's when he decided to transfer from NC State to Marquette, which would allow him to be closer to his family.
"I still think that if I would have stayed at NC State I might be in the NBA right now," he said. "I really liked coach Sendek and coach Harris, all the coaches... they were all great, but for some reason I got a little homesick. It was nothing negative about NC State because I loved it there... it was a place I always thought I would want to live after college.
"As a young guy I was making decisions for myself and didn't have someone at that time who would tell me everything was going to be okay. I didn't really have the support down there from my family, a lot of the guys on the team were from close by, and I believed I needed to be closer to home."
Williams committed to attend Marquette in May of 2000 but he never played for the school. After going home that summer, he had a change of plans and instead enrolled at Vincennes Junior College that fall.
"I chose Marquette, but when I got back home from State I started thinking about how I had to sit out," said Williams. "I had already missed a lot of my freshman year and if I went straight to Marquette I would have had to sit out another year. The more I thought about it the more I knew I wanted to play right away so I headed down to Vincennes Junior College in Indiana."
Williams played one season at Vincennes and committed to Wisconsin-Green Bay and briefly attended the school, but a coaching change forced him to once again re-evaluate his options.
"After Vincennes I wasn't recruited back at the highest level," he said. "I played well there, but I think a lot of teams were concerned with my knee so I ended up selecting Wisconsin-Green Bay. I was only there a little while before there was a coaching change, and I wasn't comfortable with the new situation. That is how I ended up at Georgetown College, a NAIA school that I graduated from."
Williams averaged 15.9 points and 4.6 rebounds as a senior at Georgetown College and was a first-team all-conference selection. Following his college career he spent four years playing basketball overseas, including two as a player-coach in Norway.
"Even with my knee problems I continued to play basketball," said Williams. "I had a productive college career and played professionally in Australia, Greece, Sweden, and Norway. My last two seasons I spent as a player-coach for my team and was happy playing professional basketball.
"Around that time I received a call from my mother to return home if I could because she wanted me to look after my younger brother, Shaquille, and my nephew, Larry Bradley. That's what I did."
Williams spent a year coaching at his old high school, Milwaukee (WI) Vincent, and he now operates an after-school program/center for an educational business called The Learning Exchange. As for his future, Williams hopes to crack the coaching ranks.
"Ultimately I definitely want to be in coaching," he said. "That's my future and what I want to do. I have some opportunities now that I"m looking at, potentially on the junior college level. I've coached high school basketball and I've been coaching on the AAU circuit so now I'm going to take a look at the potential opportunities in junior college and see what happens."
Stay tuned on Monday for Part II of our interview with Marshall Williams where he discusses the recruitment of his nephew, 2011/2012 point guard Larry Bradley.