Ross Williams, son of Pelicans coach Willie Green, relishes his moment in the NCAA tourney

Ross Williams, son of Pelicans coach Willie Green, relishes his moment in the NCAA tourney

Ross Williams keeps the souvenir in his backpack.

It’s his most prized basketball possession, a reminder of the road his journey has taken him, from an unheralded NAIA player five years ago to the biggest stage in college basketball: March Madness.

Williams, a fifth-year senior guard for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and the son of New Orleans Pelicans coach Willie Green, helped cut down that piece of net that’s now safely tucked away in his backpack.

Last Wednesday, that net was hanging from one of the basketball goals at the Legacy Center on the McNeese State campus in Lake Charles. That was until Williams and his teammates climbed the ladder, one by one, to cut them down after beating Northwestern State for the Southland Conference tournament championship.

It was their ticket to the NCAA tournament.

But as Williams and the Islanders proved less than a week later, they weren’t happy to just be invited to the Big Dance; they wanted to actually do some dancing. That’s what they did Tuesday night when they beat Southeast Missouri State 75-71 in one of the tournament’s “First Four” games in Dayton, Ohio. It was the first tournament win in school history.

The Pelicans were playing the Los Angeles Lakers in the Smoothie King Center at the same time, so Green didn’t get to watch his son come off the bench for 13 points — including three 3-pointers — in Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s four-point victory. But Green watches his son’s games as much as he can while handling his hectic duties as head coach of an NBA team. 

“He’s worked extremely hard to get to this point,” Green said. “His journey has been an incredible journey. As a dad, I couldn’t be more proud of what he’s doing.”

Green called his son shortly after the Pelicans’ game ended Wednesday night.

“He was screaming through the phone, and I was screaming back at him,” Williams said. “He was just telling me how proud he was and that the job is not done. He told me to go shock the world. You have nothing to lose. Go out there and let your hair down and shock the world.’ ”

Williams and his teammates have a tall task ahead of them Thursday when they play Alabama, the top overall seed in the tournament.

Making it even harder is the that game will be played in Birmingham, just a 45-minute drive from Alabama’s campus in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide is a 24-point favorite. History isn’t on Corpus Christi’s side either. Only once in NCAA history has a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed. That was five years ago when the University of Maryland-Baltimore County stunned Virginia.

“This is March,” Williams said. “This is the whole reason you have the tournament. Anything is possible. We have a tight-knit group, and we all know the opportunity in front of us. We have to play a No. 1 seed in their backyard. What else can you ask for? Why not? It’s David vs. Goliath? Why not try to take down the giant?”

Williams has slain basketball giants before.

The game itself can be a giant when you’re 5-foot-10 and schools think you’re too small to play at the Division I level. It’s why his only college offer coming out of high school in California was to Menlo College, an NAIA school in. He played two seasons there, then transferred to Division II Colorado Christian, where he starred for two seasons. After the NCAA granted players an extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19, Williams continued to chase the dream he had always told his parents about.

“He would always say, ‘Mom, I know I can play on this level,’ ” Terrah Green said. “ ‘I’m going to play D-I one day.’ And his day has arrived.”

It helped, of course, being around the game his whole life with a dad who played and now coaches in the NBA.

“He’s been a huge part of the journey,” Williams said. “We talk all the time about the game, with just him giving me pointers. Sometimes it’s not even basketball stuff, but more mental stuff. Be more aggressive, stay confident. He always preaches, ‘Don’t get complacent and don’t get satisfied.’ ”

Off the court, Green has been just as important. Green isn’t Williams’ biological father, but he has treated him as his own since he and his wife Terrah first started dating almost 17 years ago.

“I always tell everybody that anybody can be a father biologically, but it takes a real man to be a dad,” Williams said. “He’s the best. I can call him whenever I need to get stuff off my chest. He’s always that calm voice of reason. He’s the best dad you can ever ask for. Everybody always sees his demeanor as just chill and laid-back, but the dude is a lot of fun. We laugh together all the time.”

One of the things they now laugh about is Williams’ bragging rights. He’s in the NCAA tournament — something Green didn’t get a chance to do when he played at Detroit Mercy.

“He rubs it in my face a little bit that I didn’t play in the NCAA tournament and I didn’t win a game in the NCAA tournament,” Green said. “But that’s what you want for your kid. You want them to go further than you did.”

Now, Green wants his son to go a step farther in the NCAA tournament. The Pelicans don’t play until Friday, so Green plans to be in Birmingham to watch his son do one of two things. He’ll either play his final collegiate basketball game. Or he’ll help shock the entire college basketball world and make almost everyone in the country who filled out a bracket toss theirs in the trash can.

Thursday’s 1:45 p.m. tipoff can’t get here soon enough for Williams. He already has an idea of what it will be like once he steps on the court.

“I’m definitely going to just take a look around that arena and soak it all up,” Williams said. “I’ve been so blessed. God has put me in a position to be able to experience this my last year. But once that ball tips off, it’s game time and I’m going to give it all I got because this is a dream come true. You can’t write a better storybook ending than this. I get emotional and choked up just thinking about it.”


About Mary Weyand 20631 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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