Virginia Loses a Legend

The Virginia faithful got some some sad news with word that Chris Williams — the Big Smooth — passed away suddenly today at his home in Alabama from complications of blood clots.

Williams had a solid career in Charlottesville. Capable of playing either forward spot, he made three All-ACC teams, was the 1999 Freshman of the Year and the 2011 Virginia representative in the ACC Legends class, and is the only Cavalier to rank in our all-time top-10 for points, rebounds, blocks, and steals. He never caught on professionally in America, but put together a 14 year career overseas in locales ranging from Australia to China to Iran.

Smooth is an all-time favorite of mine. His freshman season— when he averaged 16.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and dropped 34 on Liberty — gave a big lift to a fan base that needed something to be hopeful about after Jeff Jones’s tenure ended with a series of tragic missteps and unlikeable teams. While Williams never surpassed the individual numbers of that first season or became a program-changing star, he produced consistently for all four of his seasons in Charlottesville and helped bring us an NCAA trip and two visits to the NIT.

I will always have a soft spot for those early Gillen teams; the ones that featured some or all of Williams, Adam Hall, Roger Mason, Travis Watson, Donald Hand, and Keith Friel. While that group never quite got it dialed in, they were talented, dynamic, often exciting, and were must-see TV by virtue of how they were capable of beating or losing to anyone on any given evening. It was a fun time to be a fan, and the linchpin of that success — calmly capable of anything Pete Gillen asked him to do — was Chris Williams.

36 is far too young to go. Good thoughts go out to those who knew and loved him.