By Jamie Thomas
Their resurgence after an incredibly tough start to the
season has been nothing short of epic, and now the Plymouth City Patriots have
their sights set firmly on toppling the mighty Leicester Riders in the BBL
Play-off Quarter-finals as the post-season action gets underway this weekend.
A key factor in their recent success has been American
guard, Antonio Williams, who has been in electrifying form since arriving at
the Pavilions and a key factor in driving the Patriots towards their first-ever
post-season adventure in their debut season.
We caught up with him recently to find out more about his
time with Coach Paul James’ side.
“I have definitely enjoyed the experience of playing with
these guys – they’re a great group of guys that compete so hard and they always
have been those things, but there just wasn’t enough on the roster before the
imports arrived to be able to see out wins.
“Once the club put the right imports around the group of
competitors that they already had here, you’ve seen that the results have
spoken for themselves, so it has been a really good experience to be able to
come in and help have that impact. We’ve had some ups and downs, of course, but
that’s basketball and it has just been so enjoyable.
“I’ve just tried to come in and add ‘me’ – I’m nothing fake,
I just bring myself, my energy and my passion and it rubs off on guys, I guess.
We’re all bringing the same type of energy into games now, and that will to
want to win no matter what it takes.”
“I love being the underdog and being picked to lose.”
After starting the season with a losing streak that stretched
into the double figures, the spirited Patriots showed energy and determination
to chase results despite the lack of imports at the time.
Even when the reinforcements arrived and form started to
turn, there were still some sceptics about how true Plymouth’s good play was
and whether the positive results would continue to flow. Little did they know,
this served as perfect motivation to Williams and his teammates, who detailed
how he has dealt with the nay-sayers throughout the year.
“Winning makes the locker room stay together, and the togetherness
of our group is so strong. We’re always talking to each other, letting each
other know how good this team can be, then going out there and doing our best
to deliver on that every night.
“Everybody has been picking us to not win every week, but we’ve
still gone out there and shown that we’re different to what is being expected
of us, and I’ve really enjoyed doing that.
“I’ve seen so many people writing us off and saying we can’t
win this game or that game and, honestly, what I do is I screenshot it all and
I save it, so that when we’re in the locker room before the game I can say this
person or that person picked us to lose. I love getting into things like that
and I love being the underdog and being picked to lose – it brings the best out
of me and us as a team.”
“Nobody is going to want to play us if we come in with
Squaring off against reigning BBL Championship MVP Geno
Crandall in his debut play-off outing, Williams and his teammates have the
unenviable task of taking on the dominant Leicester Riders in their post-season
The Plymouth floor general looked ahead to the match-up for
both him with Crandall and the Patriots with the Riders, as well as discussing
what his side have to do to be successful against this season’s Championship
and Cup winners.
“He’s definitely one of the best point guards in the league,
for sure. He goes out there every night and leads his team to wins by playing
hard, so you can only respect that and what he has achieved because he is a
great player. We’ll have a great match-up in the play-offs, I’m sure, and I’m
looking forward to battling against him.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve got to play the perfect game because
no team can do that, but we’ve got to be as close to that as possible to win
this tie. We’ve got to be together, to make our free throws, and play harder than
them. We’ve got to be the dogs that we are and anybody can beat anybody in
play-offs. If we want to win the title you’ve got to beat Leicester anyway, so
why not now.
“If we stay sharp, make our shots and stick together we can
achieve anything in the play-offs. We’ve come back from down 15 with no time
left and that so we’ve shown we can do it, we’ve just got to be dogs and nobody
is going to want to play us if we come in with that mentality and energy.”
Get your tickets for the BBL Playoff Finals and join us
for the showpiece finale to an epic season at London’s 02 Arena on May