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Luke Williams, Naperville boys basketball player of the year


Naperville North’s Luke Williams didn’t need to play basketball this season.

With a football scholarship from Purdue, he could have decided to take it easy and rest his body while preparing for his college career, and he wouldn’t have been criticized for it.

But this had never occurred to him. As his long-sore left shoulder worsened, Williams threw himself into the basketball season with the passion that has delighted teammates and fans for four years.

“I’m about to finish what I started,” Williams said. “I won’t play basketball (in college). I’ve been playing this all my life. It is the sport I love.

“So why not, especially with the group I have? “You’re going to spend time with the best men of your life, the men you grew up around, so that’s what I had in mind.”

The 6-foot-10 Williams ran back with an all-senior starting lineup that included fellow guards. Bryce Welch And Cole Arl, two old friends and teammates. Williams provided unforgettable moments by averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals in 21 games until he ended his high school career with shoulder surgery eight games before the end of the regular season.

Williams, 2023-24 Naperville Sun Boys Basketball Player of the Year, He saved his best game for lastOn January 17 at the Huskies’ home in St. He scored a career-high 31 points with eight rebounds, six steals and four assists in a 68-48 win over Charles North. He left the match to a standing ovation on his 18th birthday. . He finished his career with 1,470 points.

“He’s the most special kid I’ve ever seen in my life,” Naperville North coach Gene Nolan said. “The character of that young man…”

Nolan paused for a moment to collect his thoughts as he tried to sum up what Williams meant to the program.

“He’s a humble superstar,” Nolan said. “His teammates loved playing with him because he is so unselfish. He has an incredibly difficult time even doing the most basic basketball drills because he only knows one way to do it. “It affects the game in so many ways.”

Luke Williams (5) of Naperville North died in St. Louis on Wednesday, January 17, 2024, in Naperville. Driving towards the basket during the game against Charles North. (Troy Stolt/Naperville Sun)

This extends beyond statistics to mentoring younger teammates like sophomore guard Max Steele, who, like Williams, is a two-sport varsity athlete as a freshman. Steele also found a guiding light in Williams. 2023 Naperville Sun Player of the Year.

“It means a lot to have him as a leader,” Steele said. “I was a little nervous growing up, but he was there for me, always supporting me, always helping me.

“Every time something went wrong, he would pick me up or help me avoid making the same mistake. We will all miss him very much.”

So will the competitors. Williams’ farewell match was exciting, but what she did against then-unbeaten Benet on December 23 was no less impressive. The Huskies were huge underdogs against the tall Redwings and lost Arl to injury in the third quarter. Williams broke the game’s high with 22 points in Naperville North’s 44-41 overtime loss.

“Luke is a special athlete, what’s really special about high school athletics is that he’s a two-sport star and excels at both,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said after the game. “He carried his team”

Williams had two buzzer beaters against Benet, the first off-balance runner to end the first half and the other on a 5-foot jumper to end the third quarter.

“That’s a sign of a really good player in a well-coached team,” Heidkamp said. “Hats off to him. He wasn’t just going to go away. He made big play after big play, so we definitely have a lot of respect for him and the whole team.”

Williams responded with respect for others.

“These are guys I’ve been playing with since sixth or seventh grade, so I was just playing for them and playing with them on my last try,” he said. “I had a great experience with them.

“Max, a sophomore, just came in last year, so it meant a lot to be able to teach those guys.”

Williams also meant a lot to Nolan.

“He’s very friendly to people,” Nolan said. “It’s been a pleasure for him to be around for the last four years. “We will miss him.”

Not many athletes can say they won their last match. Williams’ last was not a state championship game, but he emerged victorious and the ovation he received was a fitting end.

“That means everything from the football program to the kids coming out in support,” he said. “It means a lot to know that people are there for me.”

Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter.


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