Georgia State’s Kane Williams happy he stuck around for extra season

Georgia State's Kane Williams (center) at the 2022 Sun Belt Basketball Championships on March 7 at the Pensacola (Fla.) Bay Center.

Credit: AJ Henderson / Sun Belt Conferen

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia State's Kane Williams (center) at the 2022 Sun Belt Basketball Championships on March 7 at the Pensacola (Fla.) Bay Center.

Credit: AJ Henderson / Sun Belt Conferen

There is no category for leadership in the record book, otherwise Georgia State’s Kane Williams might have another spot among the school’s career best.

The super-senior made a conscious decision to fill the leadership void in January – when the team was at its most fragile point – that helped turn things around and lead the Panthers to the Sun Belt Conference championship and their first trip to the NCAAs since 2019.

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It made sense. Williams has been around the longest, arriving as a freshman from South Paulding High School in 2018, and owns the respect of his teammates. Although he is not overly vocal, he brings a unique mixture of low-key poise and exuberance that can be difficult to balance. Williams’ emergence as the leader was the final piece missing in the team’s big picture.

With that void filled – along with the return of forward Eliel Nsoseme, clearance from COVID-19 and a couple of team-bonding experiences – the Panthers began to live up to preseason expectations. They’ve won 10 consecutive and 12 of the past 13 games.

“The emergence of Kane as the real leader inside our locker room. We’ve become a different team. We’ve become a team, and it’s been reflected in our play,” coach Rob Lanier said.

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Williams, who has played more games than anyone in program history, was reluctant at first, but saw the need and took the lead.

“Some would say it’s natural to me, but I wouldn’t say that,” Williams said. “I mean, being a leader is hard. Everyone thinks they can do it until it’s time to step up, especially when times get rough like that.”

The pivotal moment came when Williams recognized the team was under .500 – 6-9 overall and 0-4 in the Sun Belt – and in danger of going off the rails.

“The emergence of Kane as the real leader inside our locker room. We've become a different team. We've become a team, and it's been reflected in our play."

- Georgia State coach Rob Lanier, on super-senior Kane Williams

“In my previous four years, I don’t think any of those teams went below .500. That was an unusual thing for me,” he said. “I knew that the other guys wanted to get out of that, too. So I had to come in every day with great energy and make sure everybody had to be ready to practice, even when times are rough. Little by little we made progress, and we got to where we are now.”

That sort of personal determination was a factor in Williams’ decision to return for an additional COVID season of eligibility. He considered calling it a career after graduating but changed his mind after the team lost to Appalachian State in the 2021 Sun Belt Championship game.

“I thought about it for a little bit of time,” he said. “I thought it would be a great way to go out as a champion, and when we lost it crushed me. I didn’t know what happened. Then they told me I had the opportunity to come back, get a master’s degree and play another year, and it just seemed like a win-win situation to come back and not leave with that losing taste in my mouth.”

And as the team kept rolling, Williams continued to climb up the record book. He’s been part of 101 wins, the most in program history, and ranks No. 1 in games played (148), games started (110), free throws attempted (711), free throws made (529), No. 3 in points scored (1,577), No. 6 in field goals attempted (1,143) and No. 7 in field goals made (472).

But the record he’s most proud of was broken during the Sun Belt Conference. His game-saving steal with five seconds left in the opening game against Arkansas State gave him the school record.

“I didn’t know it when it happened, but to break the record in that fashion in that game, it was just a great feeling when they told me,” he said.

Now that his career is almost over – Georgia State will learn its first-round NCAA opponent Sunday – Williams said, “I just want to soak it all in in advance. I want to have some fun and just shock the world, like everyone says.”