With a new team that saw half its members arrive in the offseason, Winterthur FC Barcelona has nonetheless returned to the Final Four looking to duplicate its Euroleague title of 2003. One newcomers who has made plenty noise is point guard Shammond Williams, who in his first Euroleague season ranked high in assists while while taking it upon himself to be Barcelona's on-floor leader. After getting better each round, Williams says that he is ready for the challenge of his first Final Four in Europe.
Shammond, you are headed for you first Final Four,
in your first Euroleague season. First question, how does it feel to be
a part of all this?
“Well, it’s a great
accomplishment for our basketball club. I think they put this team
together hoping to be able to achieve something like this, but not
really knowing how far we could go or how good we could be. But we were
able put to things together and play a style that catapulted us to the
Final Four, where we have a chance to win a championship. I am happy
about that, and happy to have the opportunity to lead my team and put
us in a successful situation."
What has impressed you most about your first Euroleague season?
thing about the Euroleague that immediately surprised me is how much
emphasis everyone puts on it. I had heard a lot of the Euroleague, but
coming here it's difficult to know the difference between this and FIBA
or any other league - until you play in it. Now I know why there is
that emphasis. Being a part of it and having the opportunity to see the
impact the Euroleague has on basketball in Europe is something I am
just happy to embrace."
You were part of a group of five
or so newcomers with big roles under a new coach this season in
Barcelona. Was patience necessary for this team to make it where it has?
think the most important thing was being able to get an understanding
of each other. Coming together for the first time and playing for Coach
Ivanovic was a difficult situation for a lot of us. Just being able to
grasp and try to excel at the way he wants you to play basketball is an
experience. I think it just took time for everybody to embrace that and
for him see how people play and understand that if it's not always the
same way he wants, it can still accomplish what he wants. That was a
big thing for me playing point. He wanted us to play a certain way, and
it's hard changing after a whole lifetime playing. But the thing was
that I know how to win and know how to play basketball, and once he
began to understand how I play and what I was trying to accomplish,
those were the same things he was asking for. Everyone had to adjust,
and that was part of the experience, but now we're in the position we
want to be in."
In the regular season, you were in other
tough arenas like Maccabi, Lietuvos Rytas and Olympiacos. A lot of the
teams in that group made it to the quarterfinals. Do you think the
toughness of that group helped you guys in the long run?
had an extremely tough group in the first round. There were some great
teams and it showed once they dispersed that group and put us in
different other ones for the Top 16. A lot of our first-round opponents
were elite teams in the new groups. So, yes, it meant a lot competing
against them in the regular season. It helped us form our team,
understand how to play tough games and pull some out. It was great
On the other hand, you guys made it look
easy in the Top 16. Is that when things started to gel for all the new
guys on the team?
"I think one of the most important
things for us was being a pretty good team on the road. Our first two
Top 16 games were on the road, at Zalgiris and at Malaga. We were able
to get the first one against Zalgiris by staying concentrated and
executing on offense and defense. Then we had the opportunity to go to
Malaga, and there too we stayed focused and executed the game plan.
That enabled us to start the Top 16 up 2-0 without any home games yet.
We figured we'd just had to take care of the home games to make the
elite eight, but Olympiacos was playing good at the time, and we had to
go and beat them away to finish first. I think that showed our
character. I personally feel that we're a better basketball team on the
road, and it showed in the Top 16."
In the Euroleague
quarterfinals, you jumped right into the middle of one of the oldest
rivalries in European basketball, Barcelona vs. Madrid. What was that
like for a first-timer like you?
"I don't actually get
into that rivalry thing. Having play at University of North Carolina
and played the Carolina-Duke rivalry for so many years, I understand
about the intensity and prestige of those kinds of rivalries. But here,
as a professional, the most important thing to me is to lead my
basketball team to the win, regardless of the history. The most
important thing to me was to win and let that take care of everything
You played at two university Final Fours at North Carolina. How can that experience help you now?
now I of my old college teammates here, Ed Cota, but we hardly ever
play together. I am not sure our coach knows we played together before
or what we accomplished together. We haven't played together on the
court for more than maybe a minute yet, but from our Carolina days, we
understand what it takes to win. We're able to step up and take care of
it and win at the end."
What sort of impact has this season had on your career?
has been real good for me because it has shown people what I can do as
a leader of a team. People always understood that I could score the
ball and that I could shoot, but I don't know if they took seriously my
leadership capabilities and the impact I can have on a basketball team
setting other people up, without needing to be in a situation to score.
It meant a lot to me to help put this team in a position to be able to
win a championship. We have great talent on this team and guy who need
the basketball. They just need to be put in situations where they can
capitalize on their talent."
Have you been able to get
an idea yet about the team you play it the quarterfinals, CSKA Moscow,
who you also know from your time in Russia last season?
know a lot about CSKA from participating in the Russian League against
them last year, some of their same guys they have now. I am somebody
who likes to study the game, so I'll put in my homework now and the
team will do it together to be in the best possible situation when we
get to Prague. At the same time, it's another game and you can't put
too much pressure on yourself. We've still got to go out and do the
things that got us this far. I feel confident that if we play good
defense, we'll be fine."
From all your experience in the
NCAA and the NBA, what lessons will you bring with you to Prague to
face the challenge of your first Euroleague Final Four?
from being in this type of situation before, I understand you can't put
too much emphasis on it. You have to relax and play the game. Being a
point guard, that means leading my tam and putting us in position where
we are capable of making things happen. I won't put any more emphasis
on this game than any other, and hopefully we'll take the steps we need
to come out of Prague as European champion. It's great opportunity. I
hope to have a great time there, and in the time leading up to it put
into perspective what it is we can accomplish and then just take care