Should Florida recognize J-Will?

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This a tough one, depending on your sensibilities.

We live in a forgiving society. And fans spoke loud and clear when they gave former Florida point guard Jason Williams a loud ovation when he was recognized over the PA system during the first half of Saturday’s game against South Carolina.

Williams took in the Florida-South Carolina game from courtside. He’s made it a habit to attend at least one Florida game a year, a sign of loyalty toward Billy Donovan, his former college coach at both Marshall and UF.

No one is disputing that Williams may have been one of the most spectacular players ever to wear a Gator uniform. His 12-year NBA career, winding down as a backup with the Orlando Magic,  is testament to that.

Kentucky writers still marvel at the 31-point effort Williams had against the eventual national champion Wildcats in 1998, which led Florida to its first victory at Rupp Arena in nine years. His 17 assists against Duquense on Dec. 3, 1997 remains a school record.

But the fact remains that Williams played just 20 games in a Gator uniform during the 1997-98 season, was kicked out of school for failed multiple drug tests and never earned his degree. Asked later what he liked most about college, Williams was quoted as saying “I cherished getting kicked out of school.”

Maybe Williams has grown up since then. He’s had a somewhat turbulent relationship with the media in his 12-year NBA career. Donovan has said at times that Williams is often misunderstood.

Williams should be invited back for his contributions to Florida, however brief. But given his baggage during his UF career, should a school of higher learning recognize a dropout who failed multiple drug tests.

Your thoughts?

31 COMMENTS

  1. As a UF grad, a recent Orlando transplant,an avid Orlando Magic fan, and a father of a son playing local basketball – this is a tough one. I struggle with some of the athletes that I see the kids emulate, but I have seen Jason talk about his family, volunteer in the Orlando community, turn down a return to Miami, and his team play and energy has helped the Magic every time they call on him. Billy and Stan VG both stand by this guy and JJ Reddick named him as his favorite player, that should tell you a lot.

  2. That’s a tough one Kevin. We have recognized, and invited back athletes that have had problems over the years…Wilbur Marshall being one. And we’ve had others who have had problems, and have continued such, like Vernon Maxwell who aren’t welcome back.
    I, for one, think Williams’ comment about being kicked out of school was showing remorse, and disappointment in himself. And I don’t think there was any serious drug use shown from his test, just marijuana. Knowing Billy Donovan’s character I’d have to give Williams the opportunity to show he does have a love for UF, and see if he can’t make some positive contribution.
    After all, there’s not many of us who can say we haven’t made a mistake at some point. Isn’t the “right” thing to do look for the positive in people?
    Think he deserves to be seen this way as well. So….welcome home Jason.

  3. Yes. Drug tests are unconstitutional and drug use is nobody’s business. I’m guessing the drug tests were for marijuana. If they outlawed scotch and xanax, I bet a lot of faculty members would start failing drug tests.

    If people could understand what laws are, they would know how important it is to disobey laws that are stupid or unjust.

  4. Pam, you’re a freaking hypocrite. I don’t care who you are or what you do but at some point you have made mistakes and been forgiven in your life. Why don’t you show that same respect to Williams who hasn’t done anything terrible except not playing nice with the media. Or maybe your one of the bandwagoners who don’t remember what Jason Williams did while he was here…No reason this guy should not be invited back…

  5. I don’t think anyone cares if J-Will attends UF bball games. But should he be recognized in any fashion?…definitely not. This article lists several reasons, but just the fact that he only played 20 games for the Gators is enough. This means that J-Will only played about 17% of a four-year career. As a comparison, would we then recognize a football alum that only played 8 games? Don’t think so.

  6. Don, I agree with Pam. No. The guys that should be recognized are players like Haslem, Bonner, DeClerc. Guys who gave heart and soul to the university. I’d even put Pete (sic) and Walsh in that category but not the likes of JWill, Calathes or even, as much as I loved his play, Teddy Dupay. You have to leave the university on good terms. No, he can keep coming to the games, shake Billy’s hand, get ovations from the crowd but he should not ever be honored by the university.

  7. I’m a fan of Jwill.. he’s the reason I like Florida basketball… He may not be Tim Tebow but I enjoyed watching him.. I’m glad to see him come back. He owes Billy D for gettin’ him to the league.

    I consider Jwill a Gator… We owe him some love for at least what he did on the court… He may have been young and immature but who wasn’t when they were in college.

    JWill didn’t win a ring in a Gators uniform but he won a ring in the NBA…

    I think we should respect him and show him love.. Go Gators!

  8. If by recognize you mean list his name in the record books where appropriate then I’d say yes. I’ve spent some time with Jason over the past 2 years in Orlando and while he remains unique and somewhat aloof to the media he’s a great guy with his own wife and young kids – in other words, he’s grown up. We all make mistakes in life, its just those that we hold up as idols have to suffer the publics derision when they fail while the rest of us make our mistakes in private.

  9. While, Jason was Billy Donovan’s first big recruit (actually, transfer), he was just around for a cup of coffee (unfortunately, apparently from an Amsterdam-style coffee house)–less than 1 season–, and got booted from school for failing numerous drug (pot) tests. Perhaps the guy has grwon up the last few years, but as an avid pro basketball fan, I have heard many first-hand stories about what a complete jerk he was for the majority of his pro career. I actually hold hometown product Vernon Maxwell in higher esteem–he was much more a true Gator. (Fyi, I was raised in Gainesville, have several degrees from UF in the 80s and 90s, have attended UF hoops and football games since the late 60s, and have been a full-season pro hoop season ticketholder for 12+ years, so don’t blast me for lack of knowledge.) I’d bet White Chocolate is still at least a closet jerk (illustrated by his retirement maneuver to get out of poor team situation a couple of years back?)–but perhaps his deteriorating skills have humbled him a bit.

  10. Come on Kevin ~ are you so desperate for a story, or something to write about, that you have bring this up? Isn’t your job to simply report what happens in sports? Would it not be enough to write that Jason Williams attended the game, was instrumental in the UK victory in ’98, and to this day has a close relationship with Billy D? What purpose does it serve to pose questions with negative implications and responses? Oh yes…you are able to sell more ad space on this website! Show some class…did you even attend UF? What makes you qualified to even cover Gator athletics? What things have you done in your past that you may not be proud of? I challenge you to air your own launfry list comparable to what you so irresponsibly write about…

  11. Gator Diego,
    I think having Billy Donovan as the current coach at Florida allows many of his former players like J.Williams to still receive recognition when they come back to UF! Over the years, I believe J.Will & some of the other former Donovan players have often helped out with Billy Donovan’s summer basketball camps and are also in good graces w/Donovan. Throughout his NBA career, I think JWill has been a good ambassador of the Florida basketball program when there weren’t that many at the time. Since Donovan is Florida’s greatest coach ever, I don’t have any problem in recognizing some of his former players (like Mike Miller, David Lee, Udonis Haslem, Matt Bonner, etc.) at the basketball games!

    ps, Maxwell was one of my favorite UF players too but the way he led his personal life was so chaotic that it is difficult to recognize his achievements in an official capacity!

  12. I would really hate to be judged now for the things I did or didn’t do when I was in my late teens and early 20’s. People change. Perspective changes. Frankly I wouldn’t want to be in the Gator Nation family if we are to be so harsh on one of our own. Just like real families we should forgive and forget especially since JWil has clearly matured into a fine person.

  13. Absolutely he should be recognized.
    His past indiscretions (failed drug tests for marijuana) do not warrant any longterm scorn.
    I save my venom for people that truly hurt the program such as Vernon Maxwell.
    As far as J-Will, move on this was no big deal.

    How many people were killed by drunk drivers this week?

  14. J-Will is one of my all-time gator favorites, although it was a brief, Gator career. I’m sure if he was aked, he would like to take back the quote about getting kicked out of school, chalk it up to him just being a kid.

  15. ” I actually hold hometown product Vernon Maxwell in higher esteem–he was much more a true Gator.”- Gator Diego

    So you’re going to hold a man who purposely and knowingly gave a woman herpes to a higher esteem than JWill? Are you kidding me? The same guy that ran into the stands to punch a fan? The same guy that failed to pay his child support? You’re saying that guy is a better person than JWill? Then your standards are way off.