Basketball / B. League

Alvark rally around injured forward Jawad Williams

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Veteran forward Jawad Williams filled a vital role for the Alvark Tokyo during the club’s 2017-18 B. League championship season.

He had a knack for making clutch shots, grabbing key rebounds, playing lockdown defense and providing valuable leadership on and off the court.

Williams’ season came to an abrupt halt early in the second quarter of Saturday’s home against the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins when he sustained an Achilles tendon rupture in his right leg at Arena Tachikawa Tachihi.

Teammates helped Williams limp off the court.

In an emotional reaction, the Alvark went on to win the game, 82-70. They then completed a series sweep on Sunday with a 100-74 rout of Nagoya, a victory that clinched a playoff spot for Tokyo (36-13).

Speaking to reporters on Saturday night, coach Luka Pavicevic reflected on the way the Alvark regrouped in the heat of the moment.

“During the game, when Williams left the court with (an) injury, he united with the whole team, and most importantly we told (the players) to play for Jawad,” Pavicevic said. “I think that all the players responded to it.”

Already, there are signs the fans and the team are united to offer support to Williams throughout his rehabilitation process.

On Twitter the hashtag #with31 appeared over the weekend with numerous messages in support of Williams, who wears No. 31 for the Alvark.

Tokyo star guard Daiki Tanaka tweeted this on Sunday: “I pray for you and wish you a speedy recovery. Come back stronger!! We will get a championship for u big bro bro bro.”

Williams averaged 10.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 26 games (two starts). The 36-year-old former University of North Carolina and Cleveland Cavaliers player worked quite effectively in Pavicevic’s frontcourt rotation, mostly splitting time with regular starter Joji Takeuchi and fellow veteran Milko Bjelica at power forward this season.

Typically, Achilles tendon injuries sideline a pro athlete for six months or more.

For instance, Los Angels Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, then 35, tore his Achilles tendon on April 12, 2013. He had surgery the next day. He returned to practice for the fist time in mid-November 2013, then made his season debut on Dec. 8.