Ahmad Williams came off the bench as a sophomore for Plymouth Whitemarsh in the 2015-16 season. He was the sixth man who entered the game to play tight defense and raise the energy on the floor. His presence helped the Colonials win a district championship.
As a junior, Williams was asked to do much more. He played nearly every minute of every game and led PW to a 25-6 record, Suburban One League American Conference championship, District 1 Class-6A semifinals appearance and PIAA Class-6A quarterfinals appearance.
That’s just part of what makes him the Times Herald and Reporter boys basketball player of the year.
“I think my game improved to another level,” Williams said. “Last year I was just a guy off the bench playing defense and not being a major key or a major focus, just doing my job, which was play defense, bring energy off the bench and be that. This year I had to be the guy with the ball in my hands, score the ball, make the right plays, play defense and play basically smart basketball for 32 minutes and get the win.”
To get ready for the expanded role, he didn’t really take much of a break after last season ended with a loss to Roman Catholic in the state semifinals. Three days later he was back to work — cardio, yoga and bugging head coach Jim Donofrio to let him in the gym.
The results? Williams averaged around 15 points, six rebounds and six assists in his first season as a starter. He showed up in the team’s biggest postseason games, scoring 14, 17 and 15 points in District 1 Class-6A tournament games against Central Bucks East, Conestoga and Abington. He posted 15 points in state playoff games against Pocono Mountain West and Reading.
The Cardinal O’Hara transfer makes just as big of an impact on the defensive end. Donofrio praised the 6-foot-3 Williams’ ability to defend all five positions effectively. He was a key part in why the Colonials were able to hold Conestoga to just 29 points in the district quarterfinals.
When his brother Ahmin was injured in the regular season finale, Ahmad moved to full-time point guard for the postseason run.
“I always could pass,” he said of the role change. “I think that’s the underrated thing about my game — I’m a good passer, I see the floor well. That was the easy part. Finding people and putting people in position — that’s the hard part. The hardest part was understanding game situations. I’m still trying to figure that out now … When to go, when not to go. When to be smart and when to attack guys and stuff like that.”
In the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, all of the Plymouth Whitemarsh tri-captains were seniors. Williams — and his brother Ahmin — earned the distinction as juniors.
“It was definitely a major honor to be a captain my junior year,” Ahmad said. “There’s good and bad that comes with it. I’m still learning as a player and as a person. It was hard at times and it was easy. I think I got the captain spot because I was myself. I was a person that could get people on board and show people the way. Lead by example and have a voice.”
Williams hasn’t heard from any colleges yet, but believes if he sticks to what he’s doing the schools will come. He’ll get more college exposure this summer playing AAU basketball for Team PYO.
The Williams brothers, Ish Horn and Naheem McLeod — among others — all return for PW in 2017-18, which should place them at the top of the SOL American and in the district and state championship picture.
“Ever since that loss to Reading (state quarterfinals), I know I have to win,” he said. “I look back and watch that game a thousand times. I see what I did wrong and tell myself every game I play in I have to win. I think everyone that is coming back next year has a bad taste in their mouth.”
TOP PHOTO: Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Ahmad Williams takes it to the basket against Reading. (Rick Cawley/For Digital First Media)