When Jaylen Williams signed on to join Shenandoah University’s men’s basketball team, he did so wanting to make contributions toward the program’s reestablishment of a winning culture under second-year head coach Adam Walsh. Williams just achieved a major milestone for the program.
The 6-foot freshman guard from Woodbridge was named the Old Dominion Athletic Conference’s 2018-19 Rookie of the Year in selections announced by the conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Williams is the first SU men’s basketball player to win a major ODAC award since the school joined the conference in 2012. He’s also the first Hornet to win Rookie of the Year in program history, and he’s the first to earn a major conference award since Jeremiah Lawrence was named the USA South Conference Player of the Year in 2008.
“This award, it was a big accomplishment,” Williams said via phone on Wednesday. “… My team, without them, I wouldn’t have been able to get this award, so I really look at this award as a team award. My benefit is our benefit. I couldn’t have gotten this without them and I really appreciate this award.”
Williams started 16 of 25 games this season and averaged 13.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest for a Shenandoah team that struggled to a 5-20 record (1-15 in conference play) and missed the ODAC tournament.
He scored in double-figures in 17 games, including the last five contests of the season, and had a career-high 24 points in an 86-75 loss to Virginia Wesleyan on Feb. 13.
Williams led all ODAC freshmen in scoring, according to a news release from SU.
“I know I couldn’t do it without my coaches, of course, but I’m just a winner. I love winning. My goal is just to give it my all and see what the outcome is. Every game, that’s what I did on the court. I gave it my all,” Williams said.
“I think this award for the program will give us something to look forward to,” he added, “like we can do something, because it’s not just my award. It’s our award. We can win. And I think that’s gonna start us off good next year, give us a good start next season.”
Williams was the only Hornet to snag an All-ODAC award this winter, as SU was shut out of the first, second and third team all-conference squads.
Randolph-Macon sophomore Buzz Anthony was named the Kurt Axe Memorial Player of the Year in the ODAC, Washington and Lee’s Curtis Mitchell was named the Defensive Player of the Year and Macon’s Josh Merkel won the Bob Johnson Coach of the Year award.
“We are really proud of Jaylen,” Shenandoah head coach Adam Walsh is quoted in the news release. “He has distinguished himself amongst very stiff competition in the ODAC this season. Individual recognition is a team reward as well as a testament to the individual’s level of work and commitment to his craft.
“What’s best about this award is that it is being received by not just a solid basketball player, but a very well rounded individual that represents our program, our university and his family to the highest degree.
“This award is a building block for our program and signifies a step in the right direction for where we see ourselves going.”