Jawad Williams wants to throw his name into the very large hat filled with the long line of great forwards who have donned Carolina blue.
One of three high school seniors who have committed to play for North Carolina next season, Williams said after Wednesday night's McDonald's All-American game at Cameron Indoor Stadium that he's confident his name will land safely in that cap.
"I see myself being the next one," Williams said. "Not the next Vince Carter, but the first Jawad Williams."
That might sound like Williams has already developed a swollen head. But the only thing swollen about the small forward from Lakewood, Ohio after Wednesday night's game was his nose.
Williams, a starter on the game's West squad, caught an elbow to the face from the East's Dujuan Wagner while preparing to go up for a layin in the paint with 6:22 left in the third quarter, a blow that broke his nose.
He was helped to the bench before leaving the court with 5:42 remaining in the quarter but returned to the bench several minutes later, alternately applying a towel and a bag of ice to his nose for the rest of the game, won by the West 131-125.
"I wanted to come back in and play, but the trainer said the best thing for me was to sit out," said Williams, who will have the nose put back in place in about a week and then see if he needs surgery.
Because of his premature exit, Williams clocked only 20 minutes of game time. He finished with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 1-for-2 from behind the 3-point line, five rebounds, one block and one turnover.
"He's a great player," said East starting center David Harrison, whom Williams has been lobbying to join him in Chapel Hill all week. "It's too bad that he got hurt and didn't really get a chance to show what he can do."
His departure also prevented him from going up against East forward -- and N.C. State recruit -- Julius Hodge.
"I was a little bit upset about that," the 6-5 Hodge said. "Me and Jawad, we've been probably hanging with each other the most the whole time we've been down here. And that's my boy. He's real cool with me. But I kind of wanted to dunk on him a little bit. He's a real good player, but I don't think he can guard me though."
"I think he better wake up," Williams said. "He's lucky I got hurt."
But before his injury, the 6-foot-7, 185-pound Williams showed glimpses of the explosive athleticism and versatility that have drawn comparisons to the Los Angeles Clippers' Lamar Odom.
Because the East went with a three-guard starting lineup, Williams was matched up against Rashaad Carruth, a
6-3 guard from Oak Hill Academy (Va.). After Williams airballed a trey badly from the left wing, he raced back down the court and swatted a Carruth layin attempt.
"Carruth fouled me on that 3-pointer," said Williams, who averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks per game for St. Edward High School this past season. "They didn't call it, so I wanted to embarrass him just like he made me look bad when he fouled me."
Williams' first points came on a layup off a pass from Daniel Ewing, a 6-4 guard from Houston, who is headed for Duke.
"He's cool. He's laid back," said Ewing, Williams' roommate for the week. "We were just joking around, talking about how we're going to put it on each other for the next four years at Duke and Carolina."
In the first minutes of the second quarter, Williams scored two consecutive baskets for the West that highlighted his versatility.
He followed an Eddy Curry miss with a one-handed dunk, grabbing the ball above the rim on the right side and pounding it down emphatically with 10:31 left in the third quarter. A little more than a minute later, he posted up Carruth on the left block and hit a soft turnaround jumper.
Williams also had his share of gaffes -- Harrison cleanly stuffed a Williams two-handed dunk attempt, and Williams absent-mindedly turned the ball over on a lazy pass that led to an East layin -- but he still showed enthusiasm for next season. Broken nose and all.
"I'm going to be that second option to (Joseph) Forte," Williams said. "They lacked that second scorer, and that's going to be me. I'm going to step in and do whatever it takes to win."
The Sports Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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