Former Massachusetts men’s basketball point guard Chaz Williams yearned for the opportunity to prove himself capable of playing his way in the NBA during his time in Amherst.
Now, he’s one step closer.
The former UMass star signed a professional contract with the Maine Red Claws, which is an organization within the NBA’s Developmental League, last week after being placed in the league’s waiver system. The Red Claws, which are an affiliate of the Boston Celtics, are currently 23-11 and in first place in the Atlantic Division.
Williams originally signed a professional contract to play in Turkey, spending the fall overseas. He played for two different Turkish professional teams before returning to the United States.
UMass coach Derek Kellogg said he spoke to Williams Tuesday, and said Williams sounded excited about his decision.
“He sounds pretty upbeat,” Kellogg said. “I haven’t followed his stats much but he says he’s doing well. The one thing I like is he seems to be committed to doing whatever they want him to do and whatever they need him to do.
“I think they want him to be a good point guard and distribute and get guys involved. I think he’s really concentrating on that while also using his speed and scoring ability. I’m hoping he sticks for the rest of the year and maybe gets a chance to be on a summer league team next year.”
Williams has appeared in two games – both wins – and is averaging 23.2 minutes per game. He’s averaging six points (26.3 percent shooting) per game and seven assists to just two turnovers per game.
In an interview with the Massachusetts Daily Collegian in August, Williams said his goal was to play in the NBA and said the best route in the interim was to play in Turkey.
“I’m still working, definitely,” Williams said by phone. “In the years to come I still have a dream of (making) the NBA and, God willing, everything will go right.”
Kellogg said he thinks returning to the D-League is Williams’ best option to do so.
“I think the guys have to make a determination,” Kellogg said. “Do you want to stay on United States soil and try to make it to the NBA? Or do you want to try and go and start a career overseas? It’s easier for you to get pulled up if you’re right here and there’s probably a better track record of guys making it through the D-league.
“But you have to sacrifice during that time. The pay is OK, you’re traveling like a college team or one of those teams. I think Chaz did his stint overseas and coming back, I don’t think he really wanted to go back over there and finish off the season. This is a good time for him to be jumping in the D-league and seeing if he can make some noise.”
Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.