Illinois basketball commit Williams tears ACL, out for senior season

Illinois+head+coach+John+Groce+yells+at+his+team+from+the+sideline+during+the+game+against+Central+Michigan+at+State+Farm+Center+on+Saturday%2C+December+10.+The+Illini+won+92-73.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois head coach John Groce yells at his team from the sideline during the game against Central Michigan at State Farm Center on Saturday, December 10. The Illini won 92-73.

By Matt Gertsmeier, Illini hoops columnist

The Illinois basketball team suffered a major blow off the court this past week.

Four-star Illini commit DaMonte Williams tore his ACL in a high school game on Dec. 2. He will miss the rest of his senior season.

Williams verbally committed to Illinois late February and signed his National Letter of Intent on Nov.9. He is ranked as the No. 106 best player in the nation and the No. 23 best point guard in the class of 2017 according to 247sports.com.

First of all, thoughts and prayers to Williams. This stinks. Getting injured is terrible, but, getting injured and having to sit out the rest of your senior season is deflating. You only get four years of high school and it all builds up to that senior year.

A season ago, Williams and Peoria Manual reached the IHSA state semifinals. Now, he will be watching from the sidelines. It’s going to be grueling to have to experience that, and it’s going to take a toll on his morale. Right now, Williams needs some support, and Illini head coach John Groce realizes that.

“I feel bad for the kid because it’s his senior year,” Groce said. “It’s not necessarily how you envision it being played out. I told him last night that things happen for a reason, and we’ve got to figure out a way to turn it into a positive.”

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    So, how does this turn into a positive?

    Luckily for Williams he’s got an Illini who has faced lots of adversity that he can look up to — Tracy Abrams.

    Abrams has been through the ringer and has still managed to thrive. He’s one of the oldest and most banged up players in college basketball and has been tearing it up this year. He suffered two of the most brutal injuries a basketball player can suffer tearing his ACL two years ago and his achilles last season.

    Despite all of this Abrams has been a vital role for Illinois. He’s averaging 12 points per game, shooting over 60 percent from beyond the arc and dishing out about three assists per game. He’s coming off a career-high 31 points on an 83 percent shooting performance. The man is a living example of the miracles of modern medicine.

    Williams needs to reach out to Abrams to gain insight and understand the type of patience and work ethic it takes to continue to stay motivated while recovering.

    Groce believes the past two seasons on the bench has helped develop Abrams tremendously.

    “What he went through was hard, but it made him a better player and better person,” Groce said. “It’s not fun.”

    The rehab process starts now for Williams. An ACL tear will typically take six to nine months. So, best case scenario Williams is ready to go by the summer. Worst case scenario, he isn’t ready until the season begins.

    The best way to approach this might be option C – taking his entire freshman year off to redshirt. This wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world either. This solution wouldn’t rush him into getting ready for game action, and would only help him continue to tune his game and get stronger.

    No matter what happens, Groce is confident things will work out for Williams.

    “God has a plan for him too,” Groce said. “We’ve got to continue to support and encourage him and we believe in him.”

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    @MattGertsmeier