There was bound to be an adjustment period.
Jeremiah Williams was going from being the focal point of an upstart team and program at St. Laurence to finding his way in a very short time at Simeon, a perennial state powerhouse.
How long would that adjustment period take was the question as Williams started his senior season playing for coach Robert Smith. All would agree that acclimation took a little longer than expected.
But now? Three months into the season?
“He’s the heart of our team, the leader of our team,” says Smith of the multi-talented 6-4 Williams. “He takes on challenges and has the respect of his teammates on and off the floor.”
Williams admits it wasn’t easy after having the ball in his hands all the time and putting up massive numbers at St. Laurence. No one filled a stat sheet like the versatile Williams did a year ago. He averaged 18.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, three steals and 2.5 blocks a game in leading the Vikings to back-to-back 20-win seasons and regional titles.
There was a comfort level he was losing with his move from St. Laurence to Simeon. It was the school, style and system he was groomed in as he became the focal point of a successful team. The move to Simeon, a place where stars can often blend in with the successful pieces around them, was an eye-opener.
“I had never played with any of [the players] before and everything about Simeon was different,” Williams said of those early days.
It wasn’t only a new school, new coaching and different personnel he had to get used to at Simeon. The style and system, the way the teams played, was an adjustment as well.
“It was so different from what I was used to, especially offensively,” says Williams. “It was a totally different offense. I was used to having the ball all the time with a lot of [isolation] at St. Laurence. But it was all slowed down a lot at Simeon. It was a big change.”
Throughout the first month of the season Williams was almost tip-toeing his way through things. There were moments of impact but they were far and few between than what anyone was accustomed to seeing when he was at St. Laurence –– or what was even expected.
Williams admits there was a feeling out process and that he wasn’t exactly himself in the early going. But as the season played out he continued to see that his coach had a lot of trust in him, even if he was the new kid on the block.
“Coach Rob always showed that he trusted me, because he was the one who was always getting on my case about being more aggressive,” says Williams. “He said he needed me to produce, so him being on me has helped. It’s been a lot of fun. This is the most fun I’ve had playing basketball in a long time.”
That fun included a recent run to a city championship while Williams showcased both added aggressiveness and productivity. From start to finish, Williams was arguably the best player throughout the Public League playoffs.
The full focus for Williams now is trying to help his team in March. He and his teammates have eyes on getting Simeon to Peoria and winning a state championship. Soon after his attention will turn to his recruitment.
Last fall Williams had several mid-major programs heavily involved, including Akron, Valparaiso and Northern Iowa. Despite the interest and offers, Williams believed it was best for him to remain unsigned. He decided to play out his senior season.
“There was a part of me that thought I could maybe play at a higher level,” Williams admits. “But it was mostly about my comfort level last fall in making a decision. I just wasn’t comfortable making a decision at that time. I never want to second-guess a decision, and if I did make a decision I wanted to be 110 percent sure with it.”
Now he has another group of mid-major programs entrenched in his recruitment. He says there are a handful that have been most active with him, including Loyola, where he recently visited, Valparaiso, St. Bonaventure, Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois.
“I have been talking with Southern Illinois probably the most, and right now it’s where I feel the most comfortable,” says Williams. “They have been on me from the start –– since they were first hired there [10 months ago]. But I am still open. I am going to wait to make any decision until after the season.”