It has been almost ten years since Chaz Williams graduated from UMass and ten years since the 2013-14 season and the most recent appearance to the NCAA Tournament for the Minutemen. I had the opportunity to sit down with Chaz while he was at the Champions Center after having finished up one of the practices for The Commonwealth before they went to Syracuse for The Basketball Tournament (TBT) back in July.
Coming out of high school, several teams recruited Williams, but Hofstra had been recruiting him the longest. “I kind of pretty stuck because I committed there [in] my sophomore year of high school.” During his freshman season with the Pride, Chaz appeared in 33 games, starting in 20 while playing at Hofstra. He scored 325 points and recorded 138 assists, and 140 rebounds during his time with the Pride. Williams was also named to the Colonial Athletic Association (now known as the Coastal Athletic Association) All-Freshman team.
After his freshman season, Chaz entered the transfer portal. “I left Hofstra because the coach I went there to play for had left. He had gotten a new job at a new program which [was] Fordham University,” Williams said when I asked him why he transferred. “For me, it was like time for a new start. I went to [look at] Seton Hall, Rutgers, and UMass was third, and I just immediately fell in love with it.”
Chaz sat out for the 2010-11 season per NCAA rules at the time he was in school. This gave him time to adjust to UMass from Hofstra. “It was a quick adjustment. From a freshman to now being someone that has been in college for one year, understanding the time schedule, [and] understanding what needs to be done and how to balance things. It was a pretty small adjustment for me.”
For the 2011-12 season, things for the Minutemen started to heat up. The Minutemen were in a four-way tie for fifth place with La Salle, Dayton, and Saint Joe’s. Chaz led the league in points scored in the season with 627 points, in assists with 231, in assists per game with 6.2 assists, games played with 37 games, minutes played with 1,291 minutes, and field goal attempts with 476. In the conference tournament, Williams and the Minutemen took down the number one-seeded Temple to advance to the conference semifinals 77-71. Williams played all 40 minutes of the game scoring 20 points and 10 assists earning a double-double in the game. The Minutemen fell short of an NCAA tournament appearance that season but made it to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT). Chaz and the Minutemen made it to the NIT Final Four but ultimately fell short to Stanford, who then won the NIT finals. Chaz led both teams with a game-high 36 minutes and 19 points. Even though the Minutemen did not come out of the NIT as the champions for either appearance in 2011-12 or 2012-13, it still allowed them to play in March. “It was great, honestly. [It] kind of taught us a lot about ourselves as players and as teammates [and] helped us build up character. They also gave us the notability and the credibility we need,” Chaz said about his experience through both NIT appearances.
“We just wanted to improve every year and try to compete to make it to the NCAA tournament ultimately. That was the goal,” Chaz said about goals he and his teammates would make with each other. The team achieved the goal of making it to the NCAA tournament during the 2013-14 season. During that season, Williams and the Minutemen started the season off undefeated by winning 10 games in a row which landed them in the AP Top 25 for 10 weeks in a row. Chaz and the Minutemen had four home games sell-out, a sell-out at the MassMutual Center, and two sold-out crowds on the road. Chaz mentioned that his favorite game inside the Mullins Center was against VCU, which was one of the sellouts in Mullins. “Definitely one of the special ones. I’ll always remember [it] because of the Mullins Militia, and all of the UMass support,” Williams mentions. The Minutemen were one of six teams from the Atlantic 10 that made it to the NCAA tournament that year. “This is something we worked for you know guys like me, Maxie [Esho], and Cady [Lalanne] who’s been here. Even some of the younger guys got to see some things. It was everything that we imagined and wanting to be obviously winning more games in the tournament would have been better, but the experience itself is a blessing.”
During his time at UMass, Chaz racked up numerous accolades both in and out of the conference. Williams was a three-time Atlantic 10 All-Conference First Team Member from his sophomore year through his senior year. He also made the Atlantic 10 All-Tournament Team during his sophomore and junior seasons. Chaz was named to the NABC All-District First team from her sophomore year through his senior year. “Any individual honor or achievement is a blessing. Honestly, it is a testament to my hard work, dedication, and the time I put into my craft,” Williams mentioned to the accolades he earned.
Chaz put himself in the record books at UMass in many ways for both single-season and career records at UMass (not including his totals from Hofstra). Williams is the all-time leader in assists at UMass with 702 assists. Chaz finished 7th all-time in scoring at UMass with 1,653 points. He also finished second all-time in steals in UMass history with 199 steals just to name a few. “I never could have imagined. I was just taking my fiance and my daughter down [Legacy Hall, and] it was pretty surreal. To me to see my name actually carved in somewhere, it is definitely an honor and a beautiful feeling,” Chaz said on his accomplishments at UMass.
Shortly after Chaz graduated from UMass he founded the Make Em Believe Foundation in 2014. With this foundation, Chaz runs a camp for children 6-16 years old every year in the summer in Western Massachusetts. Williams started this foundation with the help of his mom, Diane. “[It was] something she always wanted me to do, then it just came together,” Williams said. “Anybody willing to help, you could always just come and be a part of it.” When Chaz is running his camp here in Western Massachusetts, he is always looking for help and appreciates anyone who does help him out. Besides having the foundation, Williams recently started up an AAU program based out of Western Massachusetts. “I’ve always thought about the idea of a program. I just never did due to me moving around. Now, I feel like I’m pretty settled in, and building my family where I can expand out and help others,” Chaz mentioned about creating his AAU program.
Besides creating the foundation since leaving Amherst, Williams has been playing professionally overseas and in the United States. Chaz played for the Maine Celtics and the Delaware Blue Coats in the United States before heading overseas. He also played in Turkey, Mexico, Switzerland, Finland, Iceland, Poland, France, and Spain. This upcoming season, Williams will be playing in Iceland for the third time in his playing career.
Chaz left his mark on UMass in so many ways in the record books and through fans. I had the opportunity to watch Chaz as a fan growing up and to have met his mom, Diane, who sat behind us for several seasons throughout his time at UMass. Chaz and his mom have meant so much to me and my family that it only felt right to write this. Whether it was getting to talk with Chaz and Diane after a game or even seeing his mom at one of my basketball games when I was younger, both of them helped me realize that basketball and the sports industry were intriguing and something that I wanted to get into. If it were not for Chaz and Diane, I would not be doing everything with basketball that I do today, from writing for A10 Talk to managing the men’s basketball team at my school to even being an official for our intramural basketball league at my school to working in game-day operations at Western New England and even helping out with the local CYO league here in Western Massachusetts. Thank you Chaz for everything you have done, and I cannot wait to see all of the great things that you do this upcoming season in Iceland!
Featured Image: Chris Tucci, UMass Athletics
Kaily “KG” Godek is a current student at Western New England University (WNE). She has been a supporter of UMass Athletics for over 15 years. Kaily focuses on both UMass Basketball teams and occasionally on the other Women’s Basketball teams in the conference. While writing for A10 Talk, she is a manager for the Men’s Basketball team at WNE. When she graduates from WNE she wants to go into Sports Broadcasting and Journalism. You can follow Kaily on X, formerly known as Twitter, @kgumass23.