(Images courtesy Kendall Williams)
Lobo basketball fans will remember Kendall Williams from any number of Lobo highlights throughout his college career. Whether he’s scoring 46 against Colorado State or facing New Mexico State at The Pit, Williams never disappointed Lobo Nation with his exciting style of play.
But eventually that college career came to an end and it was time for Williams to prepare for the next phase of his life. After his time on The Pit’s Bob King Court came to an end in 2014, that journey took an unexpected turn. He spent the following summer in the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas. His effort and gameplay attracted a number of teams from leagues in the United States and Europe, where he ended up – playing for teams in France, Italy and Germany while he continued to hone his basketball talent.
“I was a fresh, new professional. I didn’t even know what being a professional was at the time. I didn’t have a contract yet. It was less than a month until I signed my contract to play my first professional season in Italy. I was playing in Las Vegas and going from there. I was out there with a young man’s mind and heart, fresh from college.”
Shortly after his time in Las Vegas, Williams found himself on a plane, headed to Italy for his first season as a professional basketball player. At first, he wasn’t sure what to expect.
“My first month in Italy was brutal. I wasn’t enjoying the situation around me, on or off of the court. But that became one of the best months of my life, because it helped me grow so much, and gave me a better perspective on how to approach the game, how to wake up in the morning and not only just the competitive nature over there and the high level of basketball but changing cultures and environments, and being so far away from home on my own trying to succeed. It was an experience that you can’t replace and you can’t pay for that. I’m very appreciative for it.”
But it was on Bob King Court, and spending time with the UNM community, where Williams truly felt like he was at home. Even today, while he works on finishing his communication degree, Williams stays in touch with his former teammates and returns to the Duke City to take part in teaching youth basketball camps and play in the newly-created UNM-NMSU Alumni game.
“I remember my first year coming to UNM ,and walking into the bookstore with the other freshmen basketball players, Alex Kirk, Tony Snell, Demetrius Walker, Chris Perez. We walked in with our student advisor and we looked at each other. We had no idea that this was going to be one of the best (basketball) classes of transfers, walk-on guys, in the history of the program. That was an amazing, nostalgic image I have of campus.
“I would say that the teams I was on at UNM, only adds to my passion for Albuquerque. It’s why I try to give back. I was here four years, and in that time you get immersed in the New Mexico community. Returning to Albuquerque is just like when I return home to Los Angeles, where I was born and raised. I feel that same sense of pride when I come back here. I feel like a part of this community and that I have a responsibility to give back to it.
“And that’s what I think the college experience is about. Whether you’re a student, or a student-athlete, if you have a job, whatever your situation may be, college is a place where time slows down for you and you have time to grow. To find yourself. That’s definitely what happened for me at UNM. I’m so appreciative of the four years I spent in Albuquerque, because I needed every day of being a Lobo, of growing as a Lobo. That’s why I come back to the UNM community. I miss it all of the time. Even as I continue my life and fulfill more of my dreams and goals, I still love and appreciate Albuquerque.”