By Bryan Fulford
Greensboro, NC | Saturday, February 22, 2020 — In the midst of streaks that began a few years ago and midway through this current season, a 29-year record was about to come to an end in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) as Howard University’s Charles “C.J.” Williams was 4 points away from tying the men’s basketball all-time career scoring mark.
Williams and Howard entered Corbett Sports Center in Greensboro, NC, having lost their last 11 conference games and 13 games overall, preparing to play North Carolina A&T who had won their last 23 MEAC home games dating back to the end of the 2016-17 season.
That season, a 6-6 freshman from Millwood High School in Richmond, Virginia began his college basketball career for the Bison, playing in all 34 games that year while starting 27 of them. He averaged 30 minutes per game, scored 531 points (15.6 ppg), and was named the MEAC Rookie of the Year. And he was just getting started.
Others Have Come Close in the past 29 years
Delaware State’s Tom Davis became the first MEAC men’s basketball player to eclipse the 2,000 point barrier in 1991 when he surpassed Morgan State’s Marvin Webster who held the record with 1,990 points since 1975.
Davis, a 6’7” power forward from Philadelphia, PA, would conclude his playing career as the school and conference all-time career points scorer with 2,275 points. He was the MEAC Player of the Year in 1989 and a 2x First-team All-MEAC player in 89 and 1990. He also finished with 1,013 career rebounds, which put Davis among a group of 64 other college basketball players that had accomplished the 2,000/1,000 points/rebounds club. (Note: according to the NCAA, 114 players have accomplished this through the 2019 season.)
Over the past 2 decades, three other players have broken the 2,000 career scoring mark but have been unable to surpass Davis’ 2,275 points record.
- Thomas Trotter (MDES) in 2004 reached 2,079 points
- Tywain McKee (Coppin St) in 2009 reached 2,158 points
- Reggie Holmes (Morgan State) in 2010 reached 2,051 points.
The Sophomore Soar and The Dynamic Duo
Heading into his second season for Howard, Williams had the opposite of a “Sophomore Slump”. He played and started in all 33 games for the Bison averaging 35.5 minutes per and scoring 673 points. He recorded 19 20-point games and four 30-point games. He shot .409 from the 3-point arc making 74, which was one of the best in the conference. He became the second fastest to reach 1,000 points, and his career high average of 20.4 ppg was the 2nd best in the conference. Williams was a BOXTOROW All-American and a MEAC all-conference first-team selection.
The uptick in scoring in his second year can be directly attributed to his new teammate, a freshman 3-star recruit from a legendary school in New Jersey by the name of R.J. Cole. Williams finished second in points per game to Cole who scored 23.7 ppg and had 6.1 assists per game as well. While their first year together only produced another 10-win season for Williams while at Howard, year two of this dynamic duo would do more of the same from year one statistically, but yield better results.
While playing and staring in another 33 games during his junior season, Williams was second in scoring points per game (17.9 ppg) in the conference to Cole again, but this time the pair pushed Howard to a 17-16 overall record. Williams scored 590 points, recorded 12 20-plus scoring games and shot a career high .855 at the free-throw line. He earned another BOXTOROW All-American selection and was selected all-conference first-team for the second straight season.
Following a disappointing exit in the MEAC Tournament, Howard did earn an invitation to the CBI (College Basketball Invitational) Tournament, the school’s first postseason tournament since 1992. Unfortunately, the Bison lost to Coastal Carolina to end the season.
For the Love of Howard
Despite the personal and team success of his sophomore and junior seasons, Williams was faced with some important decisions following his third year at Howard. First, the coach that recruited him and coached him the last three seasons, Kevin Nickleberry, was let go following the conference tournament loss. Second, he would submit his name for the NBA Draft and have to measure his chances of being drafted against his future plans. And third, if the NBA Draft plans do not work out, how serious are the inquiries from Big East, A-10 and ACC coaches looking for a player with his experience and skills for one season.
Williams was quoted in a May 27, 2019 article on HBCU Gameday how important it was for him to finish at Howard.
“I’ve made such an impact at Howard and I’ve stamped my name on their program. After that it kind of just made the decision to come back pretty easy. And I love Howard. I love the atmosphere around campus. I love the program…everything. I didn’t want to leave.”
Enter new coach Kenny Blakeney, who played and coached at Duke for and with Coach Mike Krzyzewski with the biggest ask you bring before a senior with the resume “C.J.” Williams has, show your young team what it means to love Howard and be the type of Howard basketball player that can turn around a program.
The Record Awaits
The 2019-20 season hasn’t been the season of success that Williams had hoped he would see for his new coach and young teammates (10 of the 15 players on the roster are freshmen or sophomores). He has been the leading scorer in 16 of the 26 games heading into the contest against N.C. A&T. and he is averaging 18.2 ppg, 3rd best in the MEAC.
The journey to this game may have been long, but it wouldn’t take long for Williams to break the record that stood for 29 years. 3 minutes and 02 seconds of game time in fact. Williams would score Howard’s first two points of the game on a jump shot at 19:26 in the 1st half, and after a pair of 3-pointers on the next two possessions, he would score his 2,276th point on a layup to cut what was a 10-3 deficit to 5.
Williams would only score 10 points in the contest and foul out of the game with 4:26 remaining. But his team, who had led at halftime by 3, would have a 1-point lead with 01:47 to play in the game before the Aggies took the lead for good. The Bison would lose by a final score of 71-67
The Aggies home conference streak increased to 24 games. The Bison losing streak in conference games would move to 12.
Two nights later, Williams would surpass 2,300 points as he led the Bison in scoring for the 17th time this season with a 22-point effort in a 80-65 loss to N.C. Central. Howard dropped to 0-13 in conference play.
There are only 3 regular season games and at least one conference tournament game remaining, so there’s a chance that Williams can move past the 2,400 points mark before he closes the book on his career at Howard. He will be leaving a high bar for the next men’s basketball player to jump, just as Tom Davis set for him 29 years ago.