Tonight's the night.
The night Shawn Williams gets to dress out and wear the letters S-M-U across his chest for the first time.
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward started his college career at Texas in 2009. A highly touted recruit out of Duncanville, he was a part of a freshman class that boasted big-time players like Avery Bradley (now a Boston Celtic), Jordan Hamilton (now a Denver Nugget) and J'Covan Brown (currently one of the nation's most intriguing guards and the Longhorns' leading scorer).
But just a few games into '09, Williams tore some ligaments in his left ankle, ending his season. He redshirted the rest of the year and was set to return in 2010. But at the start of his sophomore year in Austin, Williams decided he didn't want to be a Longhorn anymore.
Williams ended up transferring to SMU in December of 2010. He made the choice to become a Mustang because he wanted to move back home to Dallas and still compete for a Division I program.
"I felt like I could help be part of something special…SMU is on the rise," Williams said.
He also liked the fact that SMU was different than Texas.
"Texas is one of the best schools in the country—they're always on TV, there's always media around, but I like it a lot better here," Williams said. "I'm back at home, it's more low key, there aren't distractions and I get to play in front of my family and friends I grew up with."
Per NCAA transfer rules, Williams had to sit out a year. Last season he practiced with his SMU teammates, but could only root for them from the bench during games.
As he grew comfortable in his new home, Williams developed into one of the team's main leaders. In fact, although he's never played in a game for the Mustangs, his teammates voted him as one of their captains at the beginning of this season.
Williams is part vocal leader, part lead-by-example.
"I'm a little bit of both," he said.
It's been hard for Williams to work out with his teammates at practice but not sweat alongside them on game days. He said the last time he really played basketball was his senior year at Duncanville in the Spring of 2009. They were playing Cedar Hill and lost the game that would have put them in the state championship.
Tonight, Williams will get to warm up and see some court action as SMU faces Jackson State in the inaugural Dallas Classic—an event created as part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the University's relationship with the city.
The Mustangs, who have seven members from Dallas on its roster, will play the game at DISD's Ellis Davis Fieldhouse—a place Williams, along with his fellow Dallas teammates, played in a bunch of times during in their high school days.
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