After spending more than two months watching everybody else play, Washburn multi-sport athlete Jace Williams is doing his best to make up for lost time for the Ichabods’ basketball team.
Williams, also a receiver for the Washburn football team, was off to a good start in 2017 for the Ichabods on the gridiron, catching 12 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns, before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in the fourth game of the year.
That injury also kept the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Buhler product out for the start of basketball before he was finally cleared to play in early December.
“Sitting out those games and having to stand on the sidelines, I was itching to do something, just to compete,” said Williams, a redshirt freshman in basketball. “During that time I couldn’t do any contact stuff, but I’d do the shooting drills and when they’d start the other things I’d be shooting and getting my conditioning in and tried to stay as prepared to get ready as best I could.”
Since seeing his first action in a win over Fort Hays State, Williams has played a key role off the bench for the Ichabods, seeing double-digit minutes in each of the five games he’s played. Williams is coming off his best game of the year, scoring 10 points with a couple of dunks in 13 minutes of work in Washburn’s 79-61 nonconference victory against Avila last Saturday.
“I’m starting to get a better feel,” Williams said. “The guys are great. I’ve never felt uncomfortable out there. I know my role, they know my role and they encourage me in everything I do, which is always nice to know that they have confidence in me, which gives me more confidence.
“Every single day it just gets easier and easier. Being around them helps a ton.”
First-year Washburn coach Brett Ballard has quickly become a fan of what Williams brings to the floor for the Ichabods.
“He’s really solid,”Ballard said. “He’s a good athlete, he’s tough and he’s physical. He just brings a little bit of that football mentality to the basketball court, which I love.
“He’s done phenomenal. Mentally it’s really hard to go through that grind. He went through the grind of two-a-day football and getting hurt and had the highs and lows of that, but Jace has been great and I’m really happy for him. He’s a good teammate.”
ICHABODS TO HOST HORNETS
Washburn will be at Lee Arena Saturday for a pair of MIAA contests against rival Emporia State, with the women’s game slated for a 5 p.m. tip and the men to follow at 7.
Washburn’s women are 12-1 overall and 4-0 in the conference and have won six straight games while Emporia State is 8-3 and 4-1. Saturday’s meeting will be the 100th in the Washburn-ESU series, with the Hornets winning their last 11 against the Ichabods dating back to 2013.
Reagan Phelan leads Washburn Rural with a 13.2 scoring average while Mackenzie Loe averages 10.5 points and Alexis McAfee 10.1.
Emporia State, which has lost three players to season-ending injuries, is led by Tyra Jones, who is averaging 15.9 points and 8.4 rebounds. Emily Miller averages 13.5 points and Jacee Kramer 10.8 points.
Washburn’s men are 10-3 overall and 4-0 in the conference and have won eight straight games while Emporia State is 7-6 and 2-2.
Javion Blake averages a team-high 16.2 points for the Ichabods while Brady Skeens averages 13.2 points and 9.8 rebounds. Tyas Martin averages 11 points and Isaac Clark 10.5 points for Washburn.
Brandon Hall averages 15.2 points for the Hornets while Brian Morton averages 10.4 points and Stephaun Limuel 10.2 points and seven rebounds.
Saturday’s men’s game will be the 212th in the Washburn-Emporia State series.