(Editor's note: University of Montana news release)
What freshman Money Williams did on the court last Saturday in Montana’s win will long be remembered by those that were there not just for the stats in the box score, but for the weight of the moment.
The Oakland guard scored 21 points to go along with nine rebounds in leading Montana to a win over San Jose State. It followed up a 15-point, seven rebound performance against Nevada on Wednesday. He found out following the game that his father had passed away unexpectedly.
His dominant week on the floor earned him the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honor, the league announced on Tuesday.
“It’s amazing. There’s no shortage of words, but I can’t come up with the right ones,” head coach Travis DeCuire said. “I’m happy for Money, and his family for that matter. For everyone to acknowledge the performance given the circumstances, I think it’s going to be good for him down the road to have a positive memory alongside such a tough moment in his life.”
The freshman is Montana’s leading scorer this season at 14.4 points per game and is second on the team in rebounding with nearly five per contest. He also has the second most assists on the team with 16 total.
He had been coming off the bench to start the season, and providing an instant impact with his scoring and playmaking abilities. Entering Saturday’s contest he had the second-highest usage rate in the country, as Montana ran plenty of possessions through the young guard.
There has been no adjustment to the college level required for Williams. From his first minutes on the floor, he’s looked like he belongs. It dates back to the summer, where DeCuire said Williams made fantastic strides and looked every bit the part of a player that could contribute right away.
He earned a starting role in the game against San Jose State. Sure, there will still be some freshman-type moments of learning, but Williams so far has reminded DeCuire of another phenomenal freshman.
“He had an incredible summer, and you want things to play out,” DeCuire said. “It’s very similar to Michael Oguine’s situation, he came off the bench the first few games of his career and once he had an opportunity to start he never really looked back. You want guys to work for things as much as possible and then let them play out, but we’ve kind of seen this one coming.”
In his first start against DI competition, Williams shined. He made his first five shots of the game in leading Montana to an early double-digit lead and finished with a near double-double. Had Montana not defeated San Jose State so soundly, he may have played the final minutes of the game and reached the double-double.
He made two of three shots from deep and shot 53 percent from the floor in the game. He added two steals and two assists as well, providing the fuel to a big Montana win.
DeCuire has been around a lot of great players in his decade leading Montana basketball, and at previous stops prior to Missoula. The performance from Money on Saturday stands at the top of those he’s seen from a freshman.
“Number one. I’ve had a couple of special performances at other places and been with freshmen that are fairly close,” DeCuire said. “And I think it would have ranked up there even if he didn’t have 21 and nine. I think just being on the floor and playing well, and competing and contributing to a win is huge. I think it made it that much better that he performed the way he did and gave our audience a taste of what we’ve been seeing since he arrived.”
The Grizzlies snapped a three-game losing streak with the victory over San Jose State and now prepare for two NAIA opponents at home this week. They will then hit the road for five straight games.
The award considered games played from Tuesday, Nov. 28 to Monday, Dec. 4. Williams averaged 18 points and eight rebounds over the stretch, shooting 15-37 from the floor. He also averaged 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals against the two Mountain West opponents.
He is one of just seven freshmen in the country to average at least 14.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game.
Williams is the first Grizzly to win Big Sky Player of the Week since Josh Bannan did it on Nov. 22, 2022. It’s just the third POTW honor for Montana over the past three seasons. He’s the first freshman to win it since Derrick Carter-Hollinger in 2020, and only the second Griz freshman to win it since 2009, which is as far back as the Big Sky’s records go.
“To see him handle it the way he did and go out and perform the way he did. To have his team perform around him the way they did,” DeCuire said. “I think this is a special cap to this moment.”