Yes Eric Williams Jr. seems to be raising his shots in vault a little more this winter – if he goes higher for the rebounds and is a quicker step in defense – know that the UO senior men’s basketball is carrying a little less weight on his shoulders these these days.
Williams, a native of Port Huron, Michigan, will speak for the Ducks in the upcoming season with his undergraduate degree in hand. The Oregon men held their first practice of the season on Monday, and Williams spoke as the college graduate in general social sciences.
At the end of her last graduation class on September 12, Williams called her mother. The news would spread quickly without more calls to other family members, he knew. Her mother’s pride in her accomplishment was going to take care of that.
âI didn’t really have to – she got the word out for me,â Williams recalls.
A 21-game starter last season, Williams averaged 10 points per game to help the Ducks repeat themselves as the Pac-12 champions. He also averaged six rebounds per game, placing 11th in the conference as Oregon reached the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament.
As impressive as the effort is, Williams doubled over the summer. To complete her degree ahead of this season, Williams earned 24 credits – eight in each of the college’s three four-week summer sessions. The load included two math courses required for her degree.
“I am extremely proud of him for persevering and doing all of this work,” said Steve stolp, Executive Director of the John E. Jaqua University Center for Student-Athletes in the Sports Department. “It was a monumental elevator.”
Williams enrolled in Oregon in 2019 as a transfer from Duquesne, where he was on a program called Integrated Marketing Communications. He moved on to general social studies in Oregon, where the overlap of journalism and business courses would have been more difficult to balance.
A typical day this summer saw Williams arrive early in the morning at the Jaqua Center for study sessions with a learning specialist. Blake postma. Then it was off to class early in the afternoon, followed by further studies later in the day.
At times, Williams had to miss open gym sessions with the handful of teammates who stayed at Eugene over the summer, or catch up on workouts with the UO strength trainer. Evan VanBecelaere during off-peak hours that did not conflict with his studies. But the OU coach Dana altman was clear on Williams’ priorities.
“The coach would say to me, ‘You have to go first before you do anything here,'” said Williams. “It was very important to train.”
Williams said most of her family didn’t have the chance to go to college, making her degree “the icing on the cake” for the Williams clan. He hopes to become a coach one day and knows that his degree will open doors for him that otherwise might have been closed to him.
And, Williams said, “If something fails, if I can’t play basketball, there’s a place I can work. I know there’s a place I can work.”
First, he can consider his senior season with the Ducks. He will need to successfully complete six postgraduate course credits this fall to remain eligible for this season, but his undergraduate degree is pending.
Williams knows this will pay off later in his life. He hopes this responsibility will help him in the coming season as well, allowing him to devote more time to keeping his body cool during the rigors of the season.
âI think it’s going to help me, not having too much pressure from school,â Williams said. “Stay consistent all year round, from Game 1 to March Madness.”