For the first three weeks, Lipscomb point guard Zavion Williams didn’t look like a freshman.
He didn’t feel like one either.
“I felt like an old man,” Williams said. “I couldn’t bend my knees. I couldn’t squat. I couldn’t run. The swelling was huge. [Surgery] was something that was really needed.”
Despite averaging 11.8 points and 3.3 assists through his first nine games, Williams was in excruciating pain.
It really began to bother him when the Bison returned from a tournament down in Cancun at the end of November. He believes sitting on the long plane ride added to the stiffness in his knees.
Two separate but identical injuries were believed to have built a cumulative effect for more than a year. Williams finally underwent surgery last month to repair torn meniscuses in both knees.
“For the longest, he said, ‘I just thought me knees were supposed to hurt,’” Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. “He had been playing hurt. He is a tough kid. If he was playing hurt, he was awful good. I can’t imagine what he can do with two good knees.”
Williams is working toward finding out.
After missing five games at the end of December, he has played in the last three. Coming off the bench, the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder has averaged nine points and 3.6 assists.
“My knees are feeling better,” he said. “It is not my knees having the problem right now. It is my body because I’m not so used to playing up and down.”
That may have played a factor in the Bison’s last game – an 85-74 victory over rival Belmont last Friday. Williams missed his first nine shots, before making two crucial buckets in a pivotal 18-0 run in the second half. He finished with just four points, well below what Lipscomb has already come to expect.
“We definitely need him to play at a high level,” Sanderson said. “Before we knew he got hurt, the first five or six games, he was pretty good. So we hope to get him back to that mode.”
Williams leads a youthful Lipscomb squad that features five true freshman and two redshirt-freshman.
He also is one of four Clarksville natives on the roster. Known for his quick drive on offense and fast hands on defense, Williams averaged 25.6 points and 4.3 steals as a senior to lead West Creek High School to its first state tournament appearance in school history.
Recruited by Austin Peay since eighth grade, Williams opted to leave the west corner of the state.
“You know how it is when you are from somewhere, you really want to get out of there,” he said. “You don’t want to spend your whole life there.”
So far, Williams has adjusted well to the college game, citing adapting to playing with a shot clock as the only difference. He says he is used to playing at the big-time level in basketball rich Clarksville and rising to the occasion at crowded and noisy venues.
He ranks second on the team in scoring (11.2 ppg) and assists (3.2 apg) as the Bison host Florida Gulf Coast at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Williams aims to get Lipscomb (8-9, 3-2 Atlantic Sun) back to its winning ways after going 2-5 on a seven-game road trip. The Bison haven’t won consecutive games since the first week of December.
“We can be real good,” Williams said. “The whole year we haven’t played with a whole roster. When everybody’s [together] I think we are going to be real good. ... I just see something in here and this program that I realized we could do something different – take them to the first NCAA Tournament. I want to make some type of history here.”