Two Pack Men's Basketball Players Receive Their Degrees
May 12, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. - NC State basketball players C.J. Williams and Kendall Smith are among the 86 Wolfpack student-athletes graduating Saturday. The day’s events are the final pieces of their respective childhood aspirations to play Division I basketball and earn their degrees.
Williams, from Fayetteville, will receive his degree in business administration with a human resources concentration, while Smith, from Winston-Salem, will get his degree in biochemistry.
“C.J. and Kendall are great young men,” head coach Mark Gottfried said. “They have set the standard of what I want players in our program to be, especially in the classroom. To have balanced the demands of playing Division I basketball and to have graduated in four years is a tremendous accomplishment.”
Like most kids growing in North Carolina, Williams was a huge fan ACC basketball and he had an affinity for the Pack.
“I always wanted to play for an ACC school,” Williams said. “Coming up I always watched the games and saw the great players that have come through NC State. To know that I put on the same jersey with the same name on the front that they did is truly a blessing. And to get my degree, which was a goal of mine, is also a blessing.”
Williams was one of the ACC’s most improved players last season after his insertion into the starting lineup. As a junior, Williams averaged 4.7 points per game, but as a senior he increased his output to 10.6 points a contest, an improvement of 5.9 points per game. He cited what he learned while watching from the sidelines and Gottfried’s confidence in his playing abilities.
“While I might not have played as much as I wanted in my first three years here,” Williams said, “that time really did help me. When I wasn’t playing and observing from the bench, I got to see what coaches saw. So when I got into the game, I understood what coach wanted and expected of me as a player. Also Coach Gottfried’s confidence in me as a player helped me.”
Williams almost doubled his playing time as well going from 17.6 to 31.1 minutes per game. He also shot a career best .808 at the free throw line. Against Syracuse, Williams recorded a career-high 25 points while connecting on a career-best nine shots.
Smith, a walk on, played in 28 career games for Pack, including six ACC contests. He registered six points and three minutes played, both career-highs, in State’s win over Alabama A&M during the 2010-11 season.
Like Williams, Smith grew up wanting to play in the ACC.
“Growing up in Winston-Salem, it was everyone’s dream to play to play at North Carolina, Duke, NC State or Wake Forest” Smith said. “As I got older, it seemed less of a possibility, but it happened that I could come here and play. To play for NC State was a big deal for me and it still is a big deal to me.”
Smith said he never took his opportunity as a walk-on at NC State for granted and he cherished every moment of his experience. He is grateful to both former State coach Sidney Lowe for the original chance to be a part of the team and current Pack coach Mark Gottfried to continue with the team after the change in staffs.
Highlighting Smith’s NC State career was a scoring his first-ever points in ACC play in his hometown against Wake Forest this past January.
Both will relish their memories of the Pack’s thrilling NCAA Tournament run to the Sweet 16. For Williams and Smith, playing in the Big Dance was the signature moment in their NC State experience. For the duo, the Pack’s tournament selection validated the hard work put in by everyone in a season that saw them log 24 victories and tie for fourth in the final ACC regular-season standings.
With this chapter concluded in their lives, Williams and Smith now move on to fulfilling their next set of dreams. Williams hopes to play professionally, while Smith will pursue his goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon.