By: Paul Slobodzian
Most 6’9” teenage basketball players only dream of a Division I college scholarship, but Jannson Williams made it happen and has already inked it. He recently signed his letter of intent to play for Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia next Fall.
Jannson’s height advantage helps him be a productive big man in the post when it comes to blocking shots and sizing up other big men, but he also has a knack for shooting that is rarer to see in the game from someone of Jannson’s size.
“He is a very good athlete with a tremendous upside,” Mr. Rogeric Ladd, NHS Head Boys’ Basketball team coach, commented.
Basketball is what has earned Jannson this tremendous opportunity, and he has been successful at making this sport his own. Basketball, however, wasn’t the only athletic activity that occupied his time when he was younger.
Jannson began playing basketball when he was in seventh grade at Evans Middle School. Some people may wonder why someone of his size didn’t take advantage of it from an earlier age. The reason for his late start with basketball is that baseball was Jannson’s sport of choice from the time he could pick up a bat.
At this point in his fledgling athletic career, Jannson was only playing baseball, but he began balancing basketball in middle school. Jannson’s favorite basketball memory happened in eighth grade when he led his team to victory in the Coweta County Middle School Athletic League Championship.
As Jannson’s height continued to increase rapidly, his love for basketball rose just as quickly. He maintained playing baseball and basketball at the same time until he stopped roaming the diamond after his sophomore season.
With more time to focus on honing his skills on the basketball court, Jannson devoted a lot of his free time to becoming the best player he could possibly be. He partook in numerous camps and competitions all across the region when he wasn’t playing for Newnan.
“My mom and dad paid for everything, which I know was really hard,” Jannson said. “My grandparents also helped take me to practices when my mom and dad couldn’t. I don’t even know how I could thank them.”
Jannson’s gifted skills helped him earn a spot on the Varsity basketball team as a freshman and maintain his place on the squad. His hard work and perseverance have made him one of the most dominant forces on the basketball court at any time.
He utilized his abilities to create a memorable moment against the East Coweta Indians, when he recorded his first in-game dunk. Jannson’s mother, Shanna Williams, remembers the moment quite well.
“After an EC turnover and a fast break to the NHS basket, Jannson’s teammate threw him an alley-oop for his very first slam dunk in a game,” Shanna recollected. “The crowd on both sides of the court erupted, and Jannson has been hooked on basketball ever since.”
Coach Ladd also remembered the dunk on the Indians.
“He celebrated like we won the state championship, and, in the process, his man scored a layup on the other end during his celebration.”
His indelible signature on NHS basketball came when he was only a freshman, and he has continued to grow as an overall basketball player, developing his physical skills as well as his mental preparation for grueling battles.
“Jannson has developed a high IQ for the game and has also learned the importance of preparation for the opponent and understanding tendencies which I think will be essential as a college athlete,” Ladd stated. “Jannson also has become a leader throughout the years—not always vocally, but by displaying a positive attitude and great sportsmanship.”
Jannson is one the tallest members of the team, and height doesn’t always translate to an effective shooting attack for some players, but Jannson has the unique ability to shoot from behind the three-point line. His coach certainly takes notice and puts him in situations to score from beyond the arc.
“He can shoot the 3 ball as well as put the ball on the floor. He is also a very good shot blocker that uses his length extremely well.”
Coach Ladd described how Jannson’s role on both sides of the court will be a critical asset for the Cougars.
“Jannson’s role on our team is to be the anchor on defense and man the middle of our defensive efforts. We want him to score the basketball and be an interior presence in the paint. We also hope that he can get to the free throw line ten times per game with him being an outstanding free throw shooter.”
When Jannson signed his national letter of intent to attend Marshall University, it was a great day for him as well as his mother and grandparents who were able to attend the ceremony.
“It was a huge relief like weight being lifted off of my shoulders,” Jannson said.
Shanna commented about her feelings during signing day saying that “[Jannson’s] hard work both on and off the court has paid off more than I could have ever dreamed. I have to say I am a tad bit envious of the adventure he is about to take. He has the world at his fingertips, and I can’t wait to see what his future has in store for him!”
Coach Ladd said Jannson has been “like a son to me” and he “felt very proud and accomplished when Jannson signed his letter of intent to Marshall.”
Jannson’s scholarship to play for Marshall makes him the first player that has committed to a Division I basketball program that Coach Ladd has had the privilege to mentor and coach at Newnan High School.
The climate in West Virginia, where Marshall University is located, is drastically different than Newnan’s in the winter, but Jannson has family members nearby to help alleviate any homesickness.
“It’s going to be cold,” Jannson said, “and I’m going to be on my own, to an extent. I have family up there, so I’ll have a place to get a home-cooked meal or get my clothes washed.”