Razorback target Williams comes up big again

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2019
Jaylin Williams (23) of Fort Smith Northside looks to pass under pressure from Conway defenders Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, at Kaundart Fieldhouse in Fort Smith.
Photo by Ben Goff
Jaylin Williams (23) of Fort Smith Northside looks to pass under pressure from Conway defenders Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, at Kaundart Fieldhouse in Fort Smith.

— Coming off a career-best effort against his team's biggest rival, Fort Smith Northside junior center Jaylin Williams was looking forward to carrying that momentum into the Class 6A state tournament on Wednesday.

Williams, who scored 35 points against Fort Smith Southside in his previous game, was saddled with two fouls in the first 90 seconds, but returned for the second quarter and did not pick up another foul en route to a game-high 20 point effort in the Grizzlies' 52-47 win over Bentonville West.

Smith (6-10, 220 pounds) also had 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.

“They gave me two quick fouls in what I think was just a minute and 30 seconds,” Williams said. “Their student section was loud, one guy was yelling, 'We’ll see you in the second half,' and there was a lot of pressure because it is win or go home here now. One of their guys (Dawson Bailey) made a half-court shot to end the first quarter and we had scored just five points and it didn’t look good for us.”

Fort Smith Northside coach Eric Burnett took a gamble, trusted Williams not to get a third foul and he was rewarded as his big men put up seven points in the second quarter and the Grizzlies rallied to tie the game 21-21 at halftime.

“I sent him back out there and we went to a zone to protect him and I think that ended up helping us to slow them down a little bit,” Burnett said. “He came up big for us as he has all year.”

Williams had 13 of his points in the second half while Jacob Joe - the younger brother of Arkansas freshman guard Isaiah Joe - and Braylin McKinney both added nine points for the Grizzlies (18-11).

“They were doing the best to try and get my third foul, but I just kept my hands straight up and my teammates hit some big shots as well,” Williams said. “It was a really big team win for us.”

Northside will next face top-seeded Fayetteville (21-5) Friday at 5:30 p.m. in the quarterfinal round.

The Grizzlies won the 2017 state championship and played in the 2018 championship game, but were not expected to be as strong this season.

“Everybody’s been looking down on us this whole year and we were put down before they even saw us in our jerseys,” Williams said. “We have been the underdog in almost every game, but we just keep coming out and showing what we can do.”

The Grizzlies downed Fayetteville 66-54 earlier this season and knocked the Bulldogs out of last season’s state tournament.

“I am sure it is going to be an intense game and they have a lot of great players on their team,” Williams said. “I am ready to play them and we’ll just see how it turns out.”

Burnett, whose team is two wins away from a third straight title game, expects a tough challenge.

“Fayetteville is a pretty good team,” Burnett said. “They've got them bigs, they have everything you need. It is going to be a tough game. It isn’t going to be like we played them earlier in the year. They have gotten a lot better so we are going to have to come with it.”

Williams, who has been to several Razorback games this season, has offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma State, TCU, Tulsa and Lamar.

“I am probably not going to make my decision until toward the end of the year,” Williams said. “I still have the same five teams and there are a couple of other teams showing interest.”

Williams, averaging 18 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks this season. He is set to play with Woodz Elite AAU program this summer along with players such as West Memphis junior Chris Moore and Oklahoma State commit and Jacksonville standout DeVonta Davis.

“There are some of the best players in Arkansas,” Williams said. “Being able to team up with them before we possibly play at the same place in college would be a great deal.”

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