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Newnan graduate Jannson Williams helps Marshall to first NCAA bid in 31 years


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Mar. 13, 2018 - 9:51 PM

Newnan graduate Jannson Williams helps Marshall to first NCAA bid in 31 years

MARSHALL UNIVERSITY/HERDZONE.COM

A redshirt freshman center, Newnan High basketball alum Jannson Williams was a key contributor in Marshall’s title run in the Conference USA tournament last week.

Newnan High School graduate Jannson Williams has helped the Marshall Thundering Herd basketball team make history.

Set for its first NCAA appearance in 31 years, the Marshall Thundering Herd men’s basketball team will open up the NCAA Tournament as a No. 13 seed and face the No. 4 Wichita State Shockers in San Diego on Friday, March 16, at 1:30 p.m.  The game will be broadcast on TNT.

Marshall earned the automatic bid with a 67-66 win over Western Kentucky in the Conference USA Tournament finals.

Williams scored eight points in the championship game and pulled down nine rebounds.

Williams, a 6-9, 210-pound freshman, is averaging 5.4 points per contest and 16.4 minutes per game.

The former Newnan Cougar was named to the Newnan Times-Herald All-County team his senior year after 3.6 blocked shots and pulled down 10 rebounds.

Williams is the first Coweta County resident to play in the NCAA Tournament since former East Coweta basketball player Madarious Gibbs helped lead Texas Southern to the NCAA tournament in the 2014-15 season.

Texas Southern fell to Arizona in the first round.

Gibbs currently plays overseas in Indonesia for Satya Wacana Salatiga.

“We’re really excited about this opportunity,” head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “It gives us a chance to represent the school and the state on a national level. We’re going to see how far we can go and I hope everyone enjoys the ride.”

Marshall has now made the field of 68 for the first time in three decades, and its 13 seed is the second time it has earned that seed since the last time it was in the NCAA Tournament during the 1986-87 season.

Marshall is making its sixth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, where it is 0-5 all-time in the tournament.

D’Antoni will be making his first trip to the dance in his fourth year at the helm of the program. The Herd currently stands at 24-10 and finished the conference slate with a record of 12-6.

The Thundering Herd is led by a trio of juniors Jon Elmore, C.J. Burks and Ajdin Penava.

Elmore, the Conference USA Tournament MVP, leads the league in scoring (22.8) and assists (6.9). The junior is a three-time C-USA Player of the Week after winning it for the weeks of Nov. 13, Dec. 4 and Feb. 26. 

The junior is the lone player to average 22 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists since Penny Hardaway recorded those numbers during the 1992-93 season. 

As it stands, Elmore leads the nation in triple-doubles (two), one of two players in the nation to be in the top 10 in both points (No. 8) and assists (No. 10) and is the first player in C-USA history to lead the conference in points and assists in consecutive years.

Marshall will meet Wichita State for the third time in series history, but the two sides have not met in over seven decades, as the last time they faced off was during the 1941-42 season. 

Even though the teams do not have much history, the staff does, as the Shockers’ head coach, Gregg Marshall, was an assistant coach at MU from 1996-98 and his assistant coach, Donnie Jones, was the head coach for the Herd from 2007-10.

While as the head coach of Marshall, Jones had an overall record of 55-41, while Greg White, who Gregg Marshall served under, led the Thundering Herd to an overall record of 31-25 in the Southern Conference.