Jonathan Williams grateful to be given chance to revive his career with Sheffield Sharks

In Jonathan Williams, Sheffield Sharks have acquired a player just grateful to be playing professional basketball again.

Jonathan Williams: Sheffield Sharks star playing out in Belgium. (Picture: Getty Images)
Jonathan Williams: Sheffield Sharks star playing out in Belgium. (Picture: Getty Images)

This time last year the 26-year-old combo guard was back at home in the metro area of Detroit with his mother, tending to a father who was suffering badly from Covid, wondering when the phone would ring with an offer to revive his career.

Williams had been playing in Poland, on his second team in Eastern Europe and third team overall overseas after starting in Belgium, when coronavirus forced the cancellation of the season and he was effectively made redundant.

“With limited jobs it was hard for me to get a team,” says Williams, who headed home.

Mons' Quinton Upshur and Aalstar's Jonathan Jon-Jon Williams fight for the ball during the basketball match between Okapi Aalstar and Mons-Hainaut, Saturday 23 March 2019 in Aalst, on day 20 of the 'EuroMillions League' Belgian first division. (Picture: JONAS ROOSENS/AFP via Getty Images)

“My dad got Covid really badly, he was in the hospital for six months so we thought it best for me to stick around the house, make sure my mom was okay.

“I was home for a whole year which I hadn’t done since I was a kid. It was a long year for me – I didn’t think my career was over but it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

When the light did shine, it came from South Yorkshire.

“I jumped at the chance, definitely,” says Williams, who kept active by playing recreationally twice a week with friends from his old neighbourhood. “Once I got the call, my agent got me the deal, I spoke with (head coach) Atiba Lyons on a Facetime, he seemed like a good guy; I looked into the programme, they seemed like a winning programme.

“I liked what I was hearing so I jumped on it right away. Didn’t even think twice about it.”

After a year away, with all that went on in the world and right at home for Williams, it has changed his perspective.

“I feel grateful,” says the University of Toledo graduate. “Being away from the game was a long process. Like I say, I never thought my career was over but I saw how fast a career can be taken away so it definitely put me in a humble situation.”

He was humbled earlier this month when he was named as one of the British Basketball League’s players of the week after his 23 points helped Sharks defeat Newcastle Eagles.

But since then Sharks have lost twice to leave their chances of progressing out of the North Group of the season-opening BBL Cup hanging in the balance.

“We let two wins get away that we thought we should have won, so the energy in practice has been ridiculous this week,” says Williams, ahead of tonight’s home date with Newcastle Eagles.

“We now need to translate that energy into the game tonight.

“We all feel like we have something to prove. We all think as one, we’re a team. Once we lose we take that loss as a team. If one player plays well but we lose, all that matters is the loss.”

Sheffield have yet to win at Ponds Forge since the return of fans, with Williams stressing the need to be mentally strong.

“We have a tendency to get complacent when we get up. A couple of times we’ve been winning by 10, 12, 15 points, but allowing teams to come back into it. When we get up in those positions we need to put our foot on the gas and keep driving.”