Williams back in the game

COLUMBIA -- It wasn't the path DeAngelo Williams was expecting to travel when he enrolled at Central Valley High as a freshman, but he believes that it's been worth it.

The 6-foot-3 swingman played his final high school game Saturday, putting on a Modesto High uniform and completing his first basketball season since his freshman year.

"It feels good to be playing basketball again, but it's even better to have everything else going in the right direction," Williams said. "I'm doing well in school, I've got a great girlfriend who is the one driving me and I'm looking forward to going to college."

There might have been some irony in the fact that Williams was playing his final prep game at the Madness in the Mother Lode All-Star Extravaganza at Columbia College: He expects to enroll and play hoops at Columbia or Modesto Junior College in the fall.

Williams scored 11 points, and displayed his superior defensive and passing skills, to help lead the Dark Team to a 121-111 win over the Light Team in the large-school game.

Manteca's Gerry Cooper (21 points), Johansen's Dakari King (17) and Sierra's Trevor Noguiera (15) topped the scoring for the Dark, which used a 44-point third quarter to take control.

Williams' ability to put together a strong senior year, on the court and in class, is in contrast to his first three years of high school. He began at Central Valley, transferred to Modesto Christian as a sophomore, went back to Central Valley as a junior and came to Modesto High for his senior year.

"He's hanging with the right group of people, he's got a girlfriend and they've both 3.5 GPAs, so he's doing all the right things," Modesto coach Don Wallace said, while watching three of his Panthers play in the all-star event. "I heard stories before he came out for basketball, but I try not to read too much into that. I'll see you and I'll figure it out for myself."

After watching him for a year, Wallace's assessment is straight forward: "Deangelo's as good a kid as I've coached in 12 years, a perfect gentlemen."

Williams missed two seasons of basketball -- a combination of family issues and poor grades -- but Wallace said he was one of his team's leaders this season. Williams credits Leqrisha Baker for keeping him in line.

"I met her when I came to Modesto High and it's been the best thing that's happened to me," he said. "She's pretty forceful with making sure I'm doing everything right."

Williams' play on the football field had turned heads his sophomore year at Central Valley, as his size and speed made the acrobatic receiver a difficult matchup for even the best cornerbacks. His passion for hoops, though, didn't extend to football.

"Basketball has always been at my heart, it's always been the sport I love," said Williams, who didn't play football the last two years. "I'm glad I'm back on the basketball court and I've got things back together."

Missing two years of basketball shows in his game.

"He needs to work on that 15-foot jumper, but he's got the rest of it," Wallace said. "Good defender, good ballhandler, makes good passes. You can see it all coming back."