Hidden jewels: Walk-ons play vital role in Hoyas’ success

February 5, 2015

Just over two minutes were left on the clock when Georgetown was beating Creighton by 26 points on Saturday. The crowd was elated. In addition to the impossibility of a comeback by Creighton, Georgetown fans were overjoyed because both junior David Allen and redshirt sophomore Riyan Williams, the team’s walk-ons, were put in to play: Saturday’s game was a surefire win.

David Allen, who is going on his third year with the team, says he has fun anytime he gets to play in games like Saturday’s, though he hopes to play more meaningful minutes as well.

“Obviously we’re excited to get in the game no matter what the situation, but at some point or another you’re hoping to play meaningful minutes that aren’t in the last two minutes of the game when you’re up 40,” he told the Voice.

When Williams, who joined the team prior to the 2013-2014 season, subs into a game like Saturday’s, however, his main goal is “to not mess up,” he told the Voice. “There’s the idea that walk-ons aren’t that good so I don’t wanna feed into that stereotype,” he said.

Williams hoped to play college basketball since his sophomore year of high school, so to him, getting to play those few minutes is “a dream come true.”

“When I was in 10th grade, my dad and I were watching TV one time, and he was like, ‘My only dream would be to see one of my sons on TV playing basketball.’ And ever since then I worked my hardest to get to a place where I could play basketball.”

Williams’ father is no stranger to Georgetown basketball: he is Reggie Williams, the player that helped Georgetown win the NCAA National Championship in 1984 and played in the NBA for a decade after graduating from Georgetown. Riyan sees his father’s jersey hanging on the wall every time he goes to practice in McDonough Arena.

He knew he wasn’t the strongest basketball player, and despite being approached by a few coaches to be recruited, he worked hard to become a strong student. He wanted to go to a good school and try to walk onto a team.

While Williams was not able to join the team his freshman year, he got the opportunity to do so his sophomore year.

“I thought it was just gonna be fun,” Williams said. “It’s a lot of hard work—like I said, you’re competing against the best players in the nation… It’s a great opportunity.”

One of the people who has pushed Williams the most in his basketball career is his father. His father was the coach of his high school basketball team and still gives Williams advice after every game. “One game I got in a three-pointer. He was so mad about that, he was like, the first shot you take should not be a three-pointer, he talked to me for like 30 minutes about that, so I won’t be doing that again.”

Although Allen was able to walk onto the team his freshman year, he echoed Williams’ sentiments about the rewards of being part of the team and the work that it entails.

“It’s been fun, I mean it’s been an experience of a lifetime not many people get to do this, just putting in a lot of hard work,” he said.

According to Head Coach John Thompson III, these players are an “integral part” of the basketball team. They are part of the scout team, meaning they have to learn the opposing teams’ plays in addition to the Hoyas’ own to test the other players in practice.

“They give as much to this program as, if not more than, the D’Vauntes [Smith-Rivera]s and the Jabril [Trawick]s do. And I say if not more because they never get that pat on the back from the world, but they’re as much a part of what we do and as important a part of what we do and contribute to our winning as much as anyone else.”

Both Thompson and Williams noted that the public doesn’t always notice their important role in the success of the program. Though they cheer for Allen and Williams to play at the end of a successful game, Thompson believes the fans “just see the people that I decide to throw out there on the court.”

Williams believes that at times, people might belittle his accomplishments simply because he’s a walk-on, though they rarely do so directly. He believes this is a result of playing in such a competitive Big East program.

“This is top-tier basketball,” Williams said. “You’re playing against the top players in the nation, NBA-bound players. …There’s always gonna be better players.”

Thompson, however, believes both Allen and Williams are very good basketball players.

“The differences between those guys playing and [the walk-ons] isn’t as great as the general public might think.”

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