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Freshman forward Bryson Williams goes up for a layup against UTSA on Nov. 11, 2016, at the Save Mart Center. (Christian Ortuno/ The Collegian)

Native Fresnan hungry for success at highest level

Although the men’s basketball season is over and the Bulldogs are losing three seniors, freshman power forward Bryson Williams gives Fresno State a bright future.

Of the 17 athletes on the roster, Williams is the only one from Fresno. He attended Roosevelt High School and is the school’s all-time leading scorer.

When Williams was a sophomore at Roosevelt, Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry offered him a scholarship. He committed and never wavered when Pac-12 schools came calling.

In his first year as a Bulldog, Williams started 26 games, averaging 7.7 points and 4.4 rebounds a game.

Fresno State made it to the National Invitation Tournament, but was knocked out in the first round by Texas Christian University.

“It was a great experience,” Williams said. “It made me hungrier to be able to play in the NCAA Tournament and make it to the highest level of NCAA basketball.”

For the Bulldogs to make it to the NCAA Tournament next year, players will have to step up to replace four-year starter and team MVP Paul Watson. Williams sees himself as someone who will step up and lead the team.

“I see myself becoming the leader for this team,” Williams said. “We’ve got a lot of older guys that take care of business, as well. I see our team needing a role like that. I’ll be very happy to embrace that role, and just be the right thing for our team and do what I have to do to help us win.”

Terry said that leaders cannot be designated, but they must establish themselves as leaders by how they carry themselves on and off the court.

“When it’s time for him to go to the court, guys will follow you on the court if you have the same work ethic that you have off the court,” Terry said. “So he has to continue to develop that. He has to continue to want to do that, but he’ll have every opportunity to be one of those kind of guys.”

Williams earned his starting spot on the court because one of the seniors did not take care of business off the court. Senior Karachi Edo was suspended for roughly the first half of the season, which gave Williams the chance to prove himself early.

“He got a chance to learn on the job, training from the very beginning,” Terry said. “It was a learning curve for him, and it’s still a learning curve. But he’s trending in the right direction. He’s an extremely hard worker on the court and off the court.”

Finding out about his first start made him feel great, Williams said. All of his hard work was paying off. Throughout the season, he focused on improving his overall game – especially his defense.

“I was expecting to make an impact on this team, but I wasn’t really too sure because I knew the transition from high school to college is really dramatic,” Williams said. “I was doing what I could to get better, so I could make an impact on this team.”

Williams said it means a lot to be the only person from Fresno on the team, which gives him an opportunity to play with teammates from all over the United States and see the differences in how they live.

Family, friends and former coaches attended many games at the Save Mart Center, which made Williams very happy, and it was one of the reasons he chose to stay home.

Roosevelt head coach Jamarr Chisom attended nearly every home game and even traveled to Las Vegas to watch Williams compete in the Mountain West Tournament.

“I actually had sweat in my hands in his first home game of the season,” Chisom said. “I was so nervous for him. I just wanted him to play well and be relaxed. But as a coach, it’s real satisfying when you get one of your own that stayed home, and you’re able to go reach out to them and watch them play every time he steps on the floor.”

Chisom said that he thinks Williams played very well in his freshman year, but he still has much to learn from coach Terry. He said that he saw great support for Williams from the community, and is excited for the figure that Williams is in the community.

“The community is [really] excited, because you have one of your own that you watched grow up,” Chisom said. “It’s easier to go out and support the team because you actually feel like you know one of the kids personally.”

Terry said that if Williams continues to have the right attitude, work ethic and approach, he will have an opportunity to have a very successful career and be an example for other local basketball players.

“I think anytime you have a guy that has the rep that he has in the Valley and in the state – in terms of what he was able to do from a prep standpoint – it lends an opportunity for other local products to take a look and say, ‘You know what? Bryson stayed home. He stayed, and he’s having a great experience, and he has a chance to do some special things at Fresno State. Why not me?’” Terry said.

Williams said he loved the camaraderie the team had after big wins, and he is looking forward to growing with his teammates to take them back to the NCAA Tournament.

“I expect us to be a hard-nosed defensive team, a real tough team,” Williams said. “A team that will just play hard every night and give their all every night, no matter who’s the name on the opposing team’s jersey. I see ourselves just doing big things for the city of Fresno, doing big things for the program.”