November 10, 2012

Big Al Lays Down the Law

By MARK PATTON, SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS SENIOR WRITER

 
 
 

November 10, 2012 1:01 AM



Alan Travis Williams, the son of a judge and a police chief, laid down the law to his young UCSB basketball teammates before this week's departure to LSU.

"He got everybody together, telling us that this was a great opportunity for us," roommate T.J. Taylor said. "He said this is our chance to represent ourselves and the university well."

Big words from someone who's only 19, but Williams heard the talk long before growing into the 6-foot-7 and 240-pound leader of the Gauchos.

"My dad always gave me the speech," he said. "He'd tell me, 'You leave the house not only with your name but the family name on your back, so just go out there and make the Williams name proud and don't do anything to tarnish that last name.'

"My relatives and ancestors fought to get that good name." Young Alan represented well on Friday with 14 points, six rebounds and tWo blocked shots in a 77-63, season-opening loss to the Tigers.

Williams' father, Cody, is an elected judge in Phoenix. His mother, Jeri, became Oxnard's police chief last year. The family ties are strong, binding them all together despite the miles of separation. And it's bound them over generations, as well.

"I know my grandfather, Travis L. Williams, was really involved in the community where we live," Al said. "There's a career service and family center named after him in South Phoenix.

"On my mom's side, my grandmother was really involved in the church community, and she was really known across the city. I really couldn't go anywhere in the city of Phoenix without a lot of the older generation knowing who my parents or grandparents were."

Williams made a good name for himself last year, rising from third-string center to a starter by mid-season. He wound up leading the Gauchos in rebounding at 6.5 per game, and he also averaged just under seven points.

"Every time he went on the floor, positive things happened," UCSB coach Bob Williams said. "He got

more rebounds, or more blocks, and he was a crowd favorite, too - everybody loved him.

"The energy of not only our team, but of the arena itself went up when he went in. That's kind of hard to keep on the sidelines."

He quickly made himself a big man on campus said Taylor, his 5-9 running mate.

"You go around campus, and everybody knows Al - everybody -because he's really friendly," he said. "He's a people person, just like his mom. He has good character, and when it's time to get the job done, he gets it done.

"Al is Big Al. He's great. He's a big figure, so everyone has to look up to him, but he's my big brother, too."

He's a lot like his mother, who can play both the role of Good Cop and Tough Cop... as well as Team Mom.

"Every time we need some home time, we just drive 30 minutes down to Oxnard," Taylor said. "She's there for us, to be a mom. She's a mom for everybody."

Williams said it was difficult for his club teammates in Arizona to guess that his mom was a police officer.

"She's always been the team mom," he said. "Her work mode and family mode are completely different. She can turn that other part of her off at any time, really.

"It's weird to hear people tell me, 'Oh, I had an interview in Oxnard, and your mom is so intimidating!' And I'm like, 'Really?' My dad is the same way. They're both really family-oriented."

Williams may be only a sophomore, but he's embraced the torch of leadership that's been handed to him from Orlando Johnson, who now plays for the NBA's Indiana Pacers.

"There's definitely more responsibility, but I take it with open arms," he said. "I like that being on my shoulders.

"Having had the chance to start last year is going to help me out there a lot."

Williams the Elder knows where Williams the Younger got his people skills:

"You can imagine running for election, like his dad did, parading Al out front," he said. "Al's probably shaken as many hands as Cody has.

"He's definitely a product of his family and his parents, but I also think he probably came out of the chute with a smile and loving life."

Just like he came out of the chute Friday night in Baton Rouge.