Cedar Ridge senior Daymond Williams doesn’t try to hide his feelings for his first sports love, basketball. He shows an appreciation for the game whether he’s slipping no-look passes to his teammates or helping out with vigor on defense. It’s the sport he played while growing up in Round Rock, and, heck, even his Twitter profile lists his Snapchat handle as “getbucketz4.”
That said, Williams also appreciates the direction of his athletic future. There aren’t many 6-foot-1, 250-pound basketball players like Williams pounding the hardcourt for college teams, and that’s why he will join the football team at Trinity Valley Community College in the fall with the hope of building on a promising start as a defensive tackle.
“I’ve always known that I was pretty good at football, but I was always focused on basketball,” said Williams, who earned one of the three first-team defensive lineman spots on the American-Statesman’s 2017 All-Central Texas football team. “But when coach Bell and the new coaches came in (at Cedar Ridge), they convinced me that I had a future in football.”
Williams was referring to Shawn Bell, who spent just the 2016 season as Cedar Ridge’s head coach before taking a job with the Baylor football program. However, the coaching staff Bell brought to the Round Rock campus remains almost intact, and current Raiders head coach Sam Robinson, who worked as the defensive coordinator under Bell, made wringing fulfilled potential out of Williams one of his 2017 goals.
“He’s always had the talent, but he’s just shown more self-discipline when it comes to football,” Robinson said. “With more reps, he’s gotten better and better. He’s relentless, more than any kid that we have.”
For years, Williams showed that kind of relentlessness while focusing on basketball. He did not play football as a sophomore, choosing to spend his summer months touring the state with his AAU hoops teammates instead of in the weight room. His dedication showed on the hardcourt, where Williams developed into a creative ball-handler for fourth-year Cedar Ridge boys basketball coach Quinton Black.
“He liked to penetrate and get into the paint to create for others or for himself,” Black said. “And he worked hard to develop an outside shot. He’s put the time in; he’s very dedicated and committed to getting better.”
In the past year, Williams turned more of his attention to football and developed into one of the more disruptive defensive linemen in the state.
After playing what Robinson estimated to be “30 or 40” snaps as a junior, Williams became a full-time starter this season and responded with 66 tackles — including 23 for losses and 19 sacks — for the Raiders, who finished 13-2 in the best season in school history. Almost half of Williams’ sacks came during a dominant stretch in the playoffs, when Cedar Ridge beat Coppell and Hendrickson before falling to eventual Class 6A, Division I state champion Allen.
“This year, it all clicked,” Robinson said. “You’re talking third, fourth, fifth round of the playoffs, and Daymond is standing out. You’d come away from that game as a neutral observer, asking, ‘Who’s No. 90?’ ”
Williams’ success, especially against highly recruited offensive linemen from the suburban Dallas powers of Allen and Coppell, also served as an affirmation of sorts for the senior, who will next suit up for a junior college powerhouse that has produced a litany of FBS players.
“He came in after the Coppell game and said, ‘Man, coach, I’m alright, aren’t I?’ ” Robinson said of Wiliams. “I told him, ‘You’re the real deal.’ We’ve talked with him and said, ‘Look you have a bright future. Just take care of your business.’
“There are some DI schools that know where he’s going; they have their eye on him. His ceiling is still way up there.”
DOUBLING UP BY DRIBBLING
Cedar Ridge’s Daymond Williams isn’t the only member of the 2017 All-Centex football team to also play basketball.
Garrett Wilson, the junior receiver for Lake Travis who earned play of the year honors, excels on the hardcourt, too, and has drawn scholarship offers for basketball from such schools as Tennessee and SMU. The 6-foot-1 Wilson led the Cavaliers in scoring last season, and he had 19 points and six rebounds in a loss to state-ranked Westlake last week.
Bowie’s Josh Smyth-McCauley, a third-team defensive back, is a 6-3 post for the Bulldogs, and second-team defensive back Joe Sandifer of Thrall is a 5-9 guard who averages 15.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
Andre Jones, a third-team receiver from Taylor, is a 6-2 forward who has developed into one of the Duck’ top scorers. He put up 16 points during a narrow loss to state-ranked Mexia before the holiday break.
— Thomas Jones
TOPPING THE LIST
Player of the year: Garrett Wilson, jr., Lake Travis
In his second varsity season, Wilson, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound wide receiver, blossomed into one of the top players in the state.
Wilson made 98 catches for 1,774 yards and scored 32 total touchdowns to help the Cavaliers reach a third straight Class 6A state final. He also recorded 14 tackles and three interceptions in spot duty on defense.
Our other finalists:
- Braden Cassity, sr., Westlake. The Associated Press Class 6A defensive player of the year in Texas, Cassity totaled 120 tackles and 15 sacks for a defense that carried the Chaparrals to a 6A, Division II state semifinal.
- Alexander Julian, sr., McCallum. The latest in a long line of standout running backs for the Knights, Julian paced a Class 5A, Division II state semifinalist with 2,469 yards rushing and 29 TDs.
- Jordan Weeks, sr., Wimberley. With 4,411 yards and 52 TDs passing, QB Weeks led the Texans to a 13-2 record and a 4A, Division II state semifinal.
Newcomer of the year: Courtney Patridge-Lee, jr., Manor
Second-year Mustangs coach Jimmie Mitchell turned his version of the spread offense over to a new quarterback this past fall, and Patridge-Lee responded with 1,558 yards passing, 578 yards rushing and 27 total touchdowns as Manor qualified for the Class 6A, Division II playoffs.
Our other finalists:
- Alvino Carbajal, soph., McCallum. A 6-foot-1, 250-pound defensive tackle, Carbajal totaled 113 1/2 tackles, including 23 for losses and 9 1/2 sacks, while starting every game for the 5A, Division II state semifinalist.
- Hudson Card, soph., Lake Travis. Expected to be the Cavaliers’ quarterback next season, Card spent most of this past season at wide receiver. He finished 2017 with 1,137 yards receiving, 385 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns for the 6A, Division I state finalist.
- Trinidad Sanders, soph., Bowie. When injuries depleted the Bulldogs at quarterback, Sanders stepped in behind center and tallied more than 1,500 yards of offense while helping Bowie advance to the 6A, Division I playoffs.
Coach of the year: Charles Taylor, McCallum
In his fourth year as McCallum’s head coach, Taylor led the Knights to the best season in school history as they posted a 14-1 record and earned a spot in the 5A, Division II state semifinals. The Knights accomplished all of this despite having fewer than 40 players on their roster.
Our other finalists:
- Hank Carter, Lake Travis: The winningest coach in school history, Carter has won three UIL state championships with the Cavaliers and he came within a hair of a fourth this past season, when an inexperienced Lake Travis team hit hard by graduation put up a 13-3 record and returned to a Class 6A state title game.
- Chip Killian, Hendrickson: Killian, who’s been at Hendrickson for a decade, led the Hawks, who were 3-7 in 2016, to a 10-4 record and a spot in a 6A, Division I regional championship game.
- Sam Robinson, Cedar Ridge: Robinson, the third head coach for the Raiders in three seasons, guided the team to a 13-2 record, a second straight undisputed district championship and the longest playoff run in school history.
— Thomas Jones