Tar Heel Pros News & Notes

This week's update on former Tar Heel hoopsters ...<br><br><center><i>Pictured -- Shammond Williams</i></center>


* After playing 53 games in the NBA last season between Orlando and New Orleans for just under 15 minutes per game, Shammond Williams became a free agent and decided to play the 2004-05 basketball season, his seventh pro season since graduating from North Carolina ('98), in the Superleague of Russia for the club team UNICS in the city of Kazan located in the Russian Republic of Tatarstan, about 750 miles east of Moscow. An interview of Williams recently appeared in the Russian press. It was written by Olga Komardina and was titled, "Shammond Williams: Basketball Player - Thinker." The article was published in Russian and was posted on www.unics.ru -- the official team website. Here is a translated-to-English version of that article:

A very interesting athlete has appeared this season on the team of the basketball club of UNICS Kazan. His nationality: American. On the passport: Georgian. Appearance: dark-haired person with a white-toothed smile and black, hot eyes. He was born in North Carolina and it was there he made his first steps on the basketball parquet. He continued to play and reached the NBA. He was there for six seasons. He is presently single and has never been married. Shammond Williams, a handsome and promising bachelor, would be a nice find for a simple Russian girl!

*** What were the circumstances that made you decide to be here in our city [Kazan] in Russia?
Shammond Williams:
"I arrived in Kazan to work and thought it would be interesting to test myself in Europe. Furthermore, I wanted to play basketball. During the games I prefer to be on the court, not on the bench as a reserve. But in the NBA I was located on the bench, frequently as it turned out. I was not able to improve my basketball skills. Therefore, I agreed to the proposal that was made to me to play for UNICS Kazan in Russia's Superleague.

*** Why precisely UNICS Kazan?
You didn't hear this story yet? I played for the national team of Georgia against Russia. And, obviously, it caught the interest of some of the coaching staff of Kazan's club team. Then negotiations began, as a result of which I arrived several days later to Kazan to be introduced to my future working conditions. I met with the President of club, Yevgeny Bogachev. This large person impressed me at that time. I then promised that if I did not play in the NBA, then for sure I would arrive to play in Kazan for UNICS."

*** You did not fear the Russian frost?
"Not especially. To be honest, I didn't know that much about it."

*** Now you know. How does it compare to past experiences?
Seems normal to me. Personally I am not having any problems with it. I simply dress warmly or I do not go outside. The house is completely heated. The only thing that is complicated here is the language barrier. Unfortunately, I do not thus far speak in Russian, and therefore I cannot normally watch TV. I can watch the correspondents on CNN, BBC or Eurosport, but I don't care to watch the news all day!"

*** There is also ... "Fox Kids"?
"I think I'm a little too big for that. However, all this is minor. I arrived here to work, not in order to lie on the sofa and to watch TV, My time must be concentrated on basketball and to do everything I can in order to help my team win."

*** Did you have time to be introduced to any traditions of tatarstana [Kazan is a city in the Russian Republic of Tatarstan]?
"Yes, I tried triangles [a baked pastry and meat dish]. A very tasty patty. Generally, that is the first food you encounter when you arrive into the country."

*** By the way, you mentioned, that you are on the national team of Georgia. Shammond, do you really have Georgian roots?
"Georgians in the first generation (he laughs). The fact is that in the NBA among my teammates were several Georgians [for example, Vladimir Stepania with Seattle and Zaza Pachulia with Orlando]. They told me: "If you have the desire to play the point guard position on our national team, we will help you. I was interested. At the end of the past season my Georgian friends again raised this subject and I agreed. To obtain a Georgian passport proved to be sufficiently easy, although, honestly speaking, I did not think for a second to replace my American citizenship. They asked me to play for the team and represent Georgia, so I played."

*** Were the games played on its new native land?
"Yes. It was in the capital city of Tbilisi (in the Republic of Georgia). By the way, the climate there is very mild, considerably warmer than here in Kazan. But Georgians are amazing people. In September we played a home game, and 12,000 fans arrived to watch. I was very impressed. Next year we will play two home games, and I am eagerly waiting to play these games."

*** On your arrival into Russia were you terrified of anything?
"Of course not. Like what?"

*** The snow?
: "I've seen snow before."

*** Thus far did you see any bears on the streets?
"Are they there?"

*** Such a stereotype exists in the West, that Russia has continuous forests and bears in the streets.
"I didn't hear that. To be honest, this must be a foolish joke."

*** How is our basketball different from that which you played in America?
"It is substantial. The NBA is entirely another game. There is more space and variety. The NBA game is faster, bigger and it requires more physical activity from each player. As soon as you finish attacking on offense, immediately you get back into the defense. The NBA has assembled the best players available. All the players are talented, gifted and confident. And everyone wants to score. In Russia they also want to score (and as much as possible), but the Russian game is more of a team game. And probably one of the most important qualities for a player in Russia is to have the skill to find a common language with his teammates for the ability to perform as a team."

*** What impressions do you have of our referees?
"Oh, don't ask! I will not say anything unpleasant or they will not give me a chance to play. I will say this, if a referee works a game unfairly in America, then he can be reprimanded or even can be suspended or dismissed. In Russia ... it does not work that way."

*** Shammond, how did you begin into basketball?
"Somewhere around six I began to throw the ball into the basket. A good backboard was in the park, not far from our house. I liked the game from childhood. Probably the reason I became a basketball player. Although, in my time I tried a lot of other sports."

*** Your parents did not object?
"I am very grateful to my parents for gaving me the opportunity to play basketball. However, the main reason was so that I could obtain a college degree not to become a professional player."

*** Was it difficult to combine studies and sport?
"At my university they had a rule: If you make poor grades you do not play basketball. It was important to study and to learn. I am very pleased to have attended the University of North Carolina. Mathematics was easy for me. I am also pleased to have studied English and History."

*** Do you like to read the history books?
"No, but history to me is interesting in general. And I love to learn something new about other countries, to get to know new cultures. I try to develop my horizon by all methods accessible to me."

This handsome and promising bachelor already knows several words in Russian. As he distinctly pronounces each sound in Russian, he says, "thanks," "joke" and some other common expressions. However, he does not plan to bring his relatives to distant Russia. His mother and grandmother are very attached to their home in North Carolina, where Shammond's 93-year-old great grandmother also resides. "The specific nature of being a professional basketball player is such that very frequently it is not possible to see friends and loved ones," acknowledges Williams.

Therefore, Shammond fills his few free hours philosophizing. He loves to think about and discuss many different themes of life. It strikes me, that when he took the basketball in his hands, at that moment contemporary philosophy lost a quite important thinker.

In his latest Russian Superleague contest on Saturday, Williams was on the court for 33 minutes as he scored 18 points and recorded 11 assists to help his team improve to 12-3 with a 93-90 win. On the season Williams has averages of 33 minutes, 6.1 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 15.9 points on 85 percent shooting (60-70) from the free throw line, 44 percent (69-157) from the field, and 41 percent (25-60) from the three-point area.

UNICS Kazan also competes with European teams in FIBA's Europe League. The team record is 4-4 and in six games Williams is seventh in the league in scoring at 20 ppg and second in assists at 7.2 per game.

The team website currently has a note requesting questions be sent in to be answered "by the player of UNICS Kazan, Shammond Williams." You can send an e-mail to unics@mail.ru to submit a question. Use "Question for Shammond" as the subject.


* Former Tar Heel Jonathan Holmes checked in with Inside Carolina last week to report that he has returned to Horsens, Denmark for the second half of the Danish League season after 10 days at home in Bloomington, Ind. during the holidays.

"It was great to get home to see family, see some college ball on TV, and spend Christmas in the States," Holmes provided in his update via e-mail.  

"As far as basketball, things have been going really well. [Horsens] has won six of our last seven games, and sitting in third-place at 9-5 after a 3-4 start. We beat the defending league champion Bakken Bears 82-79 in the first game back after the holiday break," Holmes added. "They feature four 7-footers, most notably Chris Christoffersen who played at Oregon. As well as guard Jeff Schifner from Penn. I contributed 12 points, seven assists, two steals and zero turnovers. I am currently averaging 13.7 points per game with 4.5 assists." 

Yesterday, Horsens notched another victory, 95-89, to improve to 10-5. Holmes helped the cause with 13 points and nine assists. His 3-for-6 on three-pointers puts him at 34-for-83 (40 percent) on the season.

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