Christian Williams made a huge sacrifice to play college basketball
NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa – Move over Ahmad Wagner because you have company.
You’re not the only member of the Iowa men’s basketball team’s incoming recruiting class who probably could’ve played major college football.
Point guard Christian Williams told reporters after scoring 26 points in the Prime Time League on Sunday that he misses playing football and that he would consider playing the sport in college if his basketball career falters.
“If all else fails with basketball, football is probably something I’d consider down the road,” said the 6-foot-6 Williams, who was a dual-threat quarterback in high school in Decatur, Ill.
Williams didn’t play football as a senior in high school, choosing instead to focus solely on basketball. However, he performed well enough at quarterback as a junior to draw interest from some Big Ten schools in addition to Auburn.
“I (heard from) a couple Big Ten (schools) and then my football coach actually said that Auburn had called,” Williams said. “But he told them that I just wanted to focus on basketball. So they never called back.”
Williams and the 6-7 Wagner are part of Iowa’s six-player incoming recruiting class.
Wagner took a different route than Williams in high school by not playing football until his senior year. Wagner decided to play football as a senior after being encouraged by his friends and classmates to give it a try.
He then became a star receiver for his high school team in Huber Heights, Ohio, leading it to a runner-up finish in the state playoffs in Ohio’s largest class.
“It was a very fun experience,” Wagner said Sunday of playing football. “I didn’t get to play a lot of football throughout my high school career.
“So to come out and help my team go to the state championship game is something I couldn’t imagine doing. It was a great experience.”
Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops apparently thought enough of Wagner’s potential to offer him a scholarship. Wagner also said he was told by Ohio State that he would have a scholarship for football if he chose to focus solely on that sport.
“It wasn’t very hard,” said Wagner, who also was a standout sprinter in track. “I put some thought into it. But I love basketball. That’s what I wanted to play.”
Wagner went out in style as a football player in the state championship game. He caught an 11-yard touchdown pass and returned a kick 90 yards for a touchdown in a 31-21 loss to Lakewood St. Edward.
He also made first-team all-state in football, exceeding his expectations.
“Absolutely,” Wagner said. “I thought I wouldn’t be that much of a help in football. That’s what I told the team, actually.
“And they told me to just come out and have fun, and that’s what I did. And I ended up being pretty good, I guess.”
As for Williams, he’s still influenced by his experience as a high school quarterback. It’s partly why he prefers playing point guard over shooting guard.
“I actually played quarterback ever since I was five years old so that just kind of helps with the point guard position,” Williams said. “I just feel that I’m better off with the ball in my hands.”
Unlike Wagner, Williams struggled with the decision to quit playing football. Williams played football until his senior year.
“It was real hard,” said Williams, who played receiver as a high school sophomore. “I kind of actually wanted to play (football) in college, but I just stick with basketball.”
Williams has a goal to be Iowa’s starting point guard, but he knows it probably won’t happen this coming season because Iowa already has two experienced senior point guards in Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons.
But once they graduate, the point guard position will be up for grabs.
“Right now, I just kind of want to be a role player and learn from those guys,” Williams said. “And then try to step in next year because I know we won’t have any point guard except for me.
“So that will be a big stage for me.”
Williams had his best performance in the PTL on Sunday. In addition to scoring 26 points, he also looked more comfortable handling the ball and distributing to teammates compared to some earlier PTL games when he was passive.
Williams is following Gesell’s advice by trying to be as aggressive in the PTL as he is during summer workouts with his Iowa teammates. Williams and Gesell also are teammates in the PTL.
“During open gyms and everything, Mike tells me that’s what I need to do in the PTL because I do it all the time in practice,” Williams said of pushing the tempo. “So that’s my game.”