Sahmir Williams didn’t say it wasn’t the right call, but he hated it.
And he did everything in his power to change it.
Williams is a junior power forward on the Abraham Lincoln High School basketball team, and not that long ago, he was looked at as a dynamic scorer.
But that’s it.
Sure, he could put up huge points on one end, but when the team needed a big stop, not only wasn’t he the lockdown defender, he was a spectator.
“I remember coaches would take me out when we were on defense at the end (of games),” Williams said. “I knew I had to do better. I had to be the kind of defender that helps teams win. I didn’t want to come out, especially when it was important. I didn’t just want to be a good defender, I wanted to be a great one.”
Now he is. And on Saturday, in Lincoln’s 50-48 victory over Bensalem at South Philadelphia High School, Williams showed it.
The Northwood resident scored seven points and pulled down 21 rebounds to lead the Railsplitters to the state playoff win. They will next play Methacton on Wednesday in a second-round game.
Against the Owls, Shaquil Bender led Lincoln with 16 points as the Railsplitters improved to 14-10 on the season. It also avenged a regular season loss to Bensalem early in the year.
Lincoln has won five of its last seven games to rebound from a slow start. According to Williams, that’s no accident.
“We didn’t get off to a good start, but once the playoffs came around, we were ready, we were playing together,” Williams said. “We made it to the (Public League) semifinals, and we lost to Gratz. I don’t know, I think we didn’t play our best. But when we came out today, we knew we had to get back to doing the things we were doing before that game. This was it for us.”
Williams did everything he could on the defensive end to limit the Owls’ potent offense, but he was far from satisfied when the game ended. In fact, he wishes he did a little more.
“I guess 21 rebounds is good, but I could have had more, and next time I will,” Williams said. “Why not get 22 or 25? I feel like I can always do more, and now I know I have to do more.
“We played so hard, especially the guys who aren’t seniors. We have four seniors on the team and I want to win every game now because it could be their last game. They would do the same for me. We want to make sure they have another game and you can only do that by winning.”
While Williams is playing for the seniors, he’s also gaining valuable experience.
The Railsplitters are a fairly young team, and any experience this group gets playing in the tournament will only help going forward. And Williams knows that first hand.
When he was a freshman, the Railsplitters advanced to the state championship before falling to Roman Catholic at Hershey. Williams played in only one of those games, but he made the trips across the state on the road to the finals and he fondly recalls everything he learned during those games.
“The seniors that year were great and they taught me so much,” Williams said. ‘The biggest thing was keep working and never give up. They taught us to stick together. They taught us things about the game, but the bigger things were how to act. Those guys were great about that.”
The run was special for other reasons, too.
“We got to go to a lot of places we’ve never been to before,” Williams said. “It was fun to play all those different teams. Playing the Public League is fun, but it’s different when you’re playing teams from all over.”
While traveling for basketball is fun, the best part of that is the game.
Williams loves the game, which means he loves playing it, talking it, watching it and just being around it.
He also loves sharing it with his 10-year-old cousin Deshawn Lawson.
Williams and his cousin live together, and he’s trying to teach the youngster to be a star. But if he doesn’t grow up to be an elite baller, he does want him to grow up to be a hard worker who is always looking to improve.
“We play around a lot out back of our house,” Williams said. “He’s good. I just want him to grow up to be good in sports and in school and to not get involved in other things. Basketball has kept me from doing that and I want that for him, too.”
Williams hopes to give his cousin more games this year, and when basketball season ends, he’ll start to get ready for next year. And not just by playing for the Philly Pride AAU team.
“I’m going out for track this year,” Williams said. “I just thought that and playing AAU will help me get better, get in better condition. It should help me get faster. I think it’s something I’ll like.”