Dec. 20, 1997
Williamson Gains Valuable Experience
By Christina Tecson
When freshman Leviticus Williamson played his first game at the Joyce Center, he did not have the home team support.
"There were more Indiana fans in the stands than there were Notre Dame fans," says Williamson.
He is referring to the Coca-Cola Classic all-star game, held at Notre Dame in April, that he played in as a high school senior. Just one month ago, he considered it his greatest athletic moment. Now, after playing forward for the Irish, he has greater memories of what it's like to play at Notre Dame.
Williamson saw action in his first college game at Notre Dame. The Springs, Texas native played seven minutes scoring a point and pulling down three rebounds in seven minutes of action as the Irish defeated The Citadel 72-53.
Only three games into the season, the freshman replaced an injured Derek Manner to start his first game with the Irish, scoring 10 points in a 72-45 win over Northeastern. He also scored 14 points starting in an exhibition game against Marathon Oil.
But numbers don't matter to Williamson. Experience is what counts.
"I was really pumped up when I got my first start," Williamson says. "I got a chance to get in the starting lineup and try to help the team win, get another victory.
"I felt more comfortable as the game went on. Once I get a little more comfortable with what I'm supposed to do, I'll look to score more."
As Williamson's playing time increases, so does his performance. Coach John MacLeod notices Williamson has made strides of improvement, especially in practice.
"Early on in practice he was kind of laying back, a little tentative," MacLeod says. "But sometimes when you're tentative it's because you don't really know what to do, you're unsure of yourself, so you kind of move at a little slower pace. But now that he knows exactly what to do, he's got a much better feel for the game.
As team captain and MVP his senior year at Spring High School, in Spring, Texas, Williamson was the second-leading scorer in the city of Houston at 23.7 points per game and led the city in rebounds at 12.9 per game.
In his first year at Notre Dame, Williamson has played in every game this season. Next to fellow classmate Martin Inglesby, Williamson is second among his classmates in both minutes and points only trailing Martin Inglesby.
According to MacLeod, while Williamson will primarily spend this season backing-up Manner at forward, he sees the freshman playing an especially important offensive role in the future.
"He is primarily a back-up right now, but down the road Leviticus Williamson is going to be a very, very good basketball player," MacLeod says. "I've been impressed with him. What he's showing is he's getting better and better."
"He's a very good offensive rebounder and he scores. He has a good feel for the offensive. We feel good about his progress. He's a good athlete. He's strong. He's going to be stronger, and obviously get bigger. But he's not afraid to shoot the ball and that's a good quality to have as an offensive basketball player."
For Williamson, Notre Dame has already exceeded his expectations. However, there is one thing he does find disappointing.
"I don't like the weather," Williamson says.
Growing up (in a small town outside of Houston), Williamson misses those summer days when he could sleep in, hang out with his friends and go to the - beach, just 45 minutes from his house.
When he arrived at Notre Dame, Williamson quickly learned that those hot days of lounging around and soaking up the Southern sun were over. At Notre Dame, Williamson often wakes up and rushes off to class, walking through snow.
"It hasn't snowed in Houston since I lived there," Williamson says.
He also finds that studying and basketball occupy much more of his time.
"I had to adjust to playing basketball," Williamson says. "It's much more physical and you have to be much more of a smarter player. Just hitting the books, they're much harder and challenging. You got to study more and concentrate a little harder."
One thing that Williamson especially prefers about Notre Dame over Texas, is its proximity to Chicago, so that he can watch his favorite NBA team on television. A long-time fan of the Chicago Bulls, Williamson credits their stream of talented players for much of his interest in basketball.
He received the most guidance off the court from his parents.
"My mom was the one who beat me over the head about making sure you get your books," Williamson says. "My dad was always trying to tell me to keep it calm, and taught me the basic things like respect."
Many of these early influences factored into Williamson's decision to attend Notre Dame.
"I came to Notre Dame because it had good academics and the basketball program was on the rise," he says.
If Notre Dame continues to succeed in the Big East, Williamson may play an even greater part in their future achievements.
"The rest of the season, whenever I get in, I want to play to the best of my ability," he says. "Just try to help out the team as much as possible, and try to get better for next year."
As Williamson continues to reach his potential on the Irish basketball court, Notre Dame fans will surely take notice. He may soon discover for himself, just how supportive a home team crowd can be.