Williams, Hornets prepare for Devil Dogs

by Mark Oliver

Maumelle senior point guard De’Shawn Williams has never backed down from a challenge — no matter how difficult. According to the senior, challenges are something he’s dealt with his entire life.

“My whole life has been a personal challenge for me,” Williams said. “Considering where I come from, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. I know too many people close to me that don’t have anything going for themselves. They’ve made bad choices. I want to be better than that and make something for myself. I’m trying to stay focused on my future and trying to stay in the gym. I love basketball. It’s what keeps me focused. The love for this game is what keeps me going forward.”

Williams was selected to this year’s 501 Basketball Team — 35 players representing the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the court. He was nominated by his head coach, Michael Shook.

“De’Shawn is a hard-working leader who has the ability to score from anywhere,” Shook wrote in his nomination. “He does what he needs to do to have good grades, he makes the guys around him better and he helps promote our program to the community and gives them something to be proud of.”

Williams’ admiration for the game began at a young age.

“I’ve always been in love with basketball,” Williams said. “I remember being the odd ball in the family — no one else was interested in sports. I played on my first team when I was 3 years old. The game has always been a part of who I am and who I want to be.”

Williams, who spent his past two seasons playing basketball in Texas, recently brought his talents back home to the 501. For the senior, the decision to return to Arkansas was not a difficult one.

“I came back to Maumelle this year so that I could finish my high school career under Coach Shook,” Williams said. “I played for Maumelle during my freshman year and I knew that I wanted to play for him again. I love his coaching style and his discipline. I love the way he treats me like I’m his own son. He’s more than a coach to me — he’s like a member of my own family.”

Over the years, Williams has made many memories on the court. One of his biggest basketball moments came against one of the nation’s top teams.

“One of my favorite memories came from when I played for Prime Prep in Dallas, Texas,” Williams said. “We were going against one of the best teams in the country, Findlay Prep, and I scored 27 points against them. It was a crazy game that took me to a new level of my recruiting. I went from being good locally to being recognized nationally. It’s a game that’s had a huge impact on my life and one that I’ll never forget.”

In his final year with the Hornets (17-4, 7-2 5A West), Williams has one goal — to lead his team to the Class 5A state championship.

“Coach Shook tells us all the time how talented we are but he also tells us that our destiny is up to us,” Williams said. “It all depends on how hard we work. We have to always be ready to bring it. It’s about staying focused and keeping a good mentality. We’re hot right now. If we keep playing the way we have been, we feel like no one can stop us.”

As the regular season nears its end, the Hornets are prepped and ready for a rematch with one of its biggest conference rivals — Morrilton.

“This is a big game for us,” Williams said. “I know [Devil Dogs’ senior guard] Chave Zackery personally from playing AAU ball together. He and his team came to our house and beat us last time. Although I scored 26 points, I felt like I played horribly that night. It was a tough loss for us. But this game means a lot to us. If we win this one, we have an opportunity to take over the No. 1 spot in the conference. That’s big. It’s a pride thing. We have to man up and come out ready to play.”

Off the court, Williams spends his free time building chemistry with his teammates.

“Tremont Robinson is one of my closest friends on and off the court,” Williams said. “We’ll hang out together, play video games and practice basketball together. On the court, when other teams see us together, they see how good we connect. When we’re working together, it’s a scary sight.”

After high school, Williams plans to continue his basketball career on the collegiate level at East Carolina University.

“It’s crazy,” Williams said. “Getting this opportunity — it still doesn’t seem real to me. No one in my family has ever been to college. It’s the perfect opportunity for me. I’m playing in a hard conference — Conference USA — and my coaching staff is constantly asking for my input and asking me what I want my role to be on the team. I want to score big. I’m in the perfect position.”

Maumelle travels to Morrilton at 6 p.m. Friday.