AMHERST — Last year, when the UMass basketball team failed to make the NCAA tournament for the 15th year in a row, Chaz Williams slipped out of coach Derek Kellogg’s house, where his teammates had gathered to watch the tourney selection show.
“I cried,” Williams said. “I cried some tears.”
After the season ended, a team in Turkey offered Williams a six-figure contract, something that would provide some financial security, not just for him, but for his 3-year-old daughter Cheree. It was tempting.
But Williams decided to come back for his senior year, not just to lead the Minutemen on the floor, but to become the first male member of his family to graduate from college. And in a couple of weeks, the UMass players will gather at Kellogg’s house again, and if Williams cries this time, his will be tears of joy.
Barring a catastrophic collapse, UMass is being projected as a midlevel seed in the national tournament. This is a big sports story, but the return of UMass to national prominence on the basketball court has the potential to help the school — which is massively underfunded, compared to other state universities — in other areas.
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