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Yorick - Bad boy delivering the goods on court

Mark Woods

Maybe it's the hair. Or the posturing. Or the gliding gazelle-like baseline drives finished with style. You just can't help noticing Yorick Williams. Love him or loathe him, he's out there. In your face. And he isn't going away anytime soon.

Has one player ever managed to provoke such praise and criticism in equal measures ? Birmingham's man of the moment is used to it all. He doesn't mind whether you're booing or cheering him. Just as long as he's getting that rock into the net and firing the Bullets to the W. Yorick Williams

Since joining the Brummies in the summer from Derby, Williams, now 24, has established himself as "The Man" in the team. Nigel Lloyd might argue otherwise, but the star is the guy who gets the ball when it counts. At crunch time.

And he admits that that role is one which suits him just fine.

"I wouldn't say there's more pressure on me this season but there's more expectation. If I don't have a good game, then people are asking what's wrong with Yorick. 

"There's nothing wrong with Yorick, I just had a bad game. People expect me to make every shot and make every play a good one."

That kind of pressure comes from coach Mike Finger, who put his personal faith in the 6'4" guard, from his team-mates and from the fans in stands. But does he heap it on his own shoulders ?

"I definitely do," Williams states, "but sometimes it's difficult to make very play. That's why I practice. You practice to get better and make a decent percentage of those plays."

If you've ever watched Yorick being interviewed on television, you've probably not been too impressed. He's different but never bland. That 'come and take me on if you're think you're hard enough' dare to opponents suggests arrogance and confidence in equal measures. And "that incident" at Chester last year which will see him appear at a different sort of court on charges of assault in February only bolsters his notoriety.

But off the court, he's thoughtful, sincere and well spoken. Will the real Yorick stand up ? Upstart or aloof. Angel or devil incarnate. How would he describe himself ?

"Down to earth," he says after much contemplation.  "I'm very wary about who I trust because of everything that's happened in my life so far, you could say I'm kind of stand off-ish. I'm not going to talk to you if I don't know you or I don't know about you. 

"Am I arrogant ? Sometimes I guess," he grins. "I don't mind. It's fun. I'd rather be known than not known."

Graduating from the Moss Side finishing school, Williams hasn't had it easy. Making this far unscathed is an achievement which some of his contemporaries have fatally fallen short of.

He attributes this to having sound guidance from a close-knit posse of friends and family, most of all from former Manchester Giants team-mate Mark Robinson.

"A lot people guided me but when I was younger, Mark taught me a lot of things about how to deal with people. How to react or not react. He's played a big part in the development of my basketball career."

He adds: "Also my family. My dad always tried to guide me the right way. He always said to me, go this way or that way, and I think I always chose the right way."

On the parquet, Williams has been racking up around 17 points per game, only a fraction less than his numbers last season at Derby. There could scarcely be two more contrasting figures off the court than Mike Finger and Bob Donewald and Williams reckons that extends to their basketball philosophies. 

"The game at Birmingham is a lot slower than it was at Derby. We don't run up and down as much. It's more a set, controlled game. Sometimes it gets in my favour, sometimes it doesn't but in basketball you have to try and change your game to all kinds of different situations."

His co-existence with Lloyd has been one of the more surprising aspects to Birmingham's play this season, Williams learning from the veteran and the Barbadian willing to share his ball and team with the newcomer. 

Despite Bullets' recent stuttering close to 1999, Williams adds that the team still can get better and justify their position as the leaders in the Southern Conference.

"I think we're still gelling. We've not completely gelled as a team yet. There's people still working out how to fit into the team and the wins that we've had have come from talent. When we starting playing as a team, we'll feel we're actually top of the league."

So does the new millennium bring a new, maturer Yorick Williams ? One who is less concerned with hair style and more with hang time. He pleads for people to look past his image and concentrate on his playing abilities.

"I change my hair to the mood I'm in. It could be blue one day, black or beige the next, it's no big deal.

"I just aim to make myself and my team better around me. As long as I can keep my head up and help myself and my team at the same time, and put my family in a better situation, that's my goal."

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