Adam Hall And Chris Williams Instrumental In Virginia's Resurgence
Dec. 3, 2001
Virginia seniors Adam Hall and Chris Williams have been through a lot during their time with the Cavaliers. The duo committed to UVa when Jeff Jones was still head coach and Pete Gillen had yet to lead the Cavs in a single game at University Hall. Right off the bat, they had to acclimate themselves to a new coaching staff and a significantly different style of play.The changes, while disorienting at first, turned out to be for the best for the seniors. Over their first three seasons in Charlottesville, Hall and Williams saw their team go from being an Atlantic Coast Conference bottom dweller with no hope of making a postseason tournament to an NCAA Tournament qualifier. This season, UVa is considered among the upper echelon of ACC teams, which is something that seemed unreachable just three years ago.
Williams is quick to attribute the team’s rapid rise to his coach’s enthusiasm and commitment. According to Williams, it is Gillen who has infused the team and the community with a sense of excitement that wasn’t felt prior to his arrival.
“[Coach Gillen brings] a lot of excitement,” Williams says. “With the style of basketball he plays, he brings the fans back into the arena and excitement back into the community. He’s such a great person. He just makes you want to come see him coach and see us play, and he makes us want to play hard.”
Gillen, on the other hand, is grateful to Williams and Hall for their commitment to the program. He feels that the emergence of his two senior starters and tri-captains has quickened the team’s development. He has grown to count on the pair over the past three seasons, and will continue to look for consistent contributions from both Hall and Williams again this season.
“We have two talented seniors in Chris Williams and Adam Hall,” Gillen says. “I think that it is important to have good seniors and hopefully they will give us some experience and some leadership. I think they are two of the most talented wing players in the ACC. We are excited about them being here.”
In fact, Gillen is so thankful for the contributions his seniors have made throughout their tenure in Charlottesville that he rewarded Williams with a game in the forward’s home town of Birmingham, Ala. Williams was a high school star at Minor High School in Birmingham. He led the team — which featured six players who all earned basketball scholarships — in scoring for three consecutive seasons and was nominated for the McDonald’s All-America team as a senior. Gillen scheduled a December 8 matchup against Auburn in Birmingham to allow Williams an opportunity to play in front of his family and friends.
“We are playing Auburn in Birmingham to bring Chris Williams home,” Gillen says. “The only reason we are going back to play there is for Chris because we figured we owed it to him. We are just thanking Chris for sticking with us.”
Both Williams and Hall spent significant time this summer honing their games in preparation for their senior season. Hall spent time working out with the Houston Rockets in his native Texas, preparing himself for the rigors of a schedule that features three teams from last season’s Final Four (Duke, Maryland and Michigan State).
“Adam spent a lot of time playing with the Houston Rockets at their training camp, working with John Lucas and guys like that,” Gillen says. “I think he worked very hard this summer.”Meanwhile, Williams, who played out of position in the post at times over the past few seasons to compensate UVa’s overall lack of size, focused on increasing his strength. Gillen hopes Williams’ strength will allow him to bang a little more down low against some of the bigger players in the ACC.
“Chris put on about seven or eight pounds of muscle,” Gillen says. “He’s gotten a little stronger, so hopefully that will make him a little more aggressive.
Gillen will look to Hall to be a defensive stopper, a role he embraced last season en route to garnering ACC All-Defensive team honors. Hall’s versatility allows him to guard almost every position on the court and his athleticism causes matchup problems for opposing teams. Moreover, Hall’s tremendous jumping ability allowed him to average 5.5 rebounds per contest last season (third on the team) despite being just 6-5.
“In my opinion, Adam’s the best athlete in the ACC in terms of running, jumping and rebounding,” Gillen says. “He did a great job on the boards last year, in particular on the offensive boards. He is a very important member of our team.”Williams was second on the team in points last season, quietly averaging 14.5 points per contest. The senior was also second on the team in rebounds (6.7), steals (44) and blocks (20). While his scoring output has declined somewhat from his freshman season when he averaged 16.8 ppg, Williams’ contributions to the Cavaliers cannot be overstated.”As our team has gotten stronger, Chris has not been called on to be Hercules or Atlas and carry the world,” Gillen says. “That does not diminish how good a player he is. Some people read that wrong and I don’t think he’s as appreciated as he should be.”There is little doubt that, along with Gillen and his staff, Hall and Williams have been the catalysts behind Virginia’s rise to prominence over the last few seasons. Both players bring tremendous athleticism and versatility to the court night in and night out. More importantly, the seniors understand their roles and have committed themselves to making sure the Cavaliers succeed as a team instead of worrying about individual accolades. In return for their hard work, their Cavalier teammates rewarded the duo by naming them tri-captains of this year’s team (Roger Mason, Jr. is the third captain).