Cougs vs. Dons: Guy Williams knows 'em both

SEATTLE - Guy Williams holds a unique distinction: He starred in basketball for both the University of San Francisco and Washington State. Tonight, when the Dons and Cougs meet for just the second time ever, his allegiances will be decidedly crimson. Who to root for isn't what's on his mind, though. He can't believe the two schools he went to the Big Dance with are reduced to playing in the CBI.

In a phone conversation Monday, the disappointment on the other end of the line was palpable when the man George Raveling once dubbed the most talented player he ever coached learned that USF and WSU would be facing off in the first round of the College Basketball Invitation (7 p.m. this evening on HD Net).

"I was not even aware of it until I got your e-mail (on Sunday)," Williams said. "I've never even heard of the tournament. My reaction is wow, how far both programs have fallen to be playing in the CBI."

Williams, who was one of the most hotly recruited prepsters in the nation coming out of Bishop O'Dowd High in Oakland, suited up for USF when they were a national powerhouse. He was a starter alongside Bill Cartwright in 1979 when the Dons advanced to the Sweet 16. In 1983, when WSU made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, he was averaging close to 19 points and 9 rebounds a game for the Cougars before he blew a knee against Oregon.

He was thrilled in 2007 when seniors Kyle Weaver, Robbie Cowgill and Derrick Low led the Cougars to the Sweet 16.

Williams said he has followed both USF and WSU closely over the years, and for them to square off tonight in the five-year-old CBI just doesn't sit well.

But it is what it is, so if you have to choose sides, where are you standing?

"Oh, Cougars all the way," Williams said. "I have no connection to the San Francisco program. I'm a Cougar."

Williams came to WSU in 1980-81 and redshirted after two seasons at USF. The Dons had been put on NCAA probation and barred from the post season following a series of violations that eventually led to the death penalty for the program.

His arrival in Pullman was hailed as the greatest recruiting coup in Cougar history. This was Guy "The Fly" Williams -- a 6-9 point guard who had scholarship offers out of high school from virtually every major program in the nation.

He redshirted that first year on campus, averaged 11.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as a junior in '82, and then took of like a meteor as a senior in 1983. The Cougars were 12-2 when his world came crashing down in a game against Oregon. Trying to evade a defender, his knee buckled and like that, his college career was over and his basketball future on the respirator.

Even with the torn up knee, the Washington Bullets knew what kind of talent he possessed and drafted him in the second round, No. 34 overall. He played for them one season, then moved on to Golden State for a brief stay the following year. The knee wasn't the same, but it was still good enough to give him five successful seasons in Europe before moving back to the Northwest.

Williams has lived in Seattle for the last two decades. He and his wife have three kids. He was the long-time executive director of the North Seattle Boys and Girls Club, and currently is laying the groundwork for a start-up film company.

His daughter Aminah plays basketball for Washington. He said the only time he will root against the Cougars is when she is in uniform.

Working and living in the Seattle area has allowed Williams to get to know many high school athletes over the years, including a couple of current Cougars.

"I want to see those kids do well," Williams said. "The (Michael) Ladd kid, and the (Reggie) Moore kid. Knowing them in high school and getting to know their families, I just want those young people to succeed."

Besides Aminah, the Williams' have another daughter, Myah, 15, and son Noah, 10. Noah is considered an up and coming talent on the hardwood and Guy expects him to gain the attention of college coaches once he hits high school. As Guy thinks about his time at WSU, he could only hope for his children to get the same type of experience he had.

"I remember that it was the perfect atmosphere for me coming from a big city," Williams said of Pullman. "It allowed me to be the best student athlete I could be. It's great if you want to focus on athletics and academics."

One thing that's changed in Pullman for Williams however has been the Pullman Police department, which he believes unfairly targets students.

"I keep my ear to the ground with what's going on over there," Williams said, and he finds it frustrating.

Regardless, Williams remains faithful to Coug Nation and said he wants nothing but the best for Cougar athletics. He said the team will be tested tonight against USF (20-13)at War Memorial Gym.

"That house is going to be rocking," Williams said. "The Cougs are going to have to be prepared, but I know they'll be."

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