Men's Basketball

Lucas Williamson: Fifth-Year Leader

Joe Robbins | Getty ImagesSenior guard Lucas Williamson celebrates the win over No. 1 Illinois.

A Loyola legend in the making, Lucas Williamson walked onto Loyola’s campus in 2017 ready to begin the journey of a lifetime. 

In just four years playing as a Rambler, Williamson has competed in the March Madness Final Four as a first-year, the National Invitational Tournament as a sophomore and the Sweet 16 as a senior. He was even named Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year in his senior season. 

And he’s not done yet. 

Due to COVID-19, all players were granted an extra year of eligibility. Williamson intends to return for a fifth year alongside three other teammates

“I was weighing all the variables,” Williamson said. “Ultimately I decided to come back for my teammates. I just realized that this locker room is something special and it was just something that I couldn’t pass up.”

He’s helped Loyola to its glory days, but it’s not the first time Williamson has been a part of a team that has garnered multiple championships.

As a first-year at Whitney Young High School in Chicago’s Near West Side, he was part of a program that won the Illinois State Title in 2014. He was the only first-year on the team. 

Courtesy of Lucas Williamson II Lucas Williamson drives to the basket for Whitney Young Magnet High School.

Wanting to give his new teammates a piece of the glory, he spent the next three years trying to return the title to Whitney Young. Finally, during his senior year in 2017 he was able to rejoice in the prestige alongside his friends, once again. 

The Chicago native has a similar story at Loyola — earning berths to March Madness in both his first-year and senior year. 

“For it to happen in high school and for it to happen in college,” Williamson said. “I’ve been around great people. I’ve had great teammates and have had even greater coaches. I’m just incredibly thankful to have the career that I’ve had so far.”

As a Loyola first-year, Williamson stepped up and filled a hole when former player Ben Richardson went out with an injury

Richardson was a key piece of Williamson’s growth at Loyola. Williamson thrived off Richardson’s mentorship and even earned the nickname “Richardson’s son,” something he’s carried into his senior year. 

When Williamson earned the title of Defensive Player of the Year — the same award Richardson held three years prior — Richardson was his biggest cheerleader. 

Nick Schultz | The Phoenix Loyola guard Lucas Williamson fights for a steal with Missouri State guard Keandre Cook during a game at Gentile Arena Jan. 4, 2020.

“I was so proud of [Williamson] because I remember having conversations when he was a freshman,” Richardson said. “I just knew it was gonna be in his future. … I knew one day he was gonna end up in that position.”

Seeing how his older teammates helped him, Williamson said he wanted to be a mentor now that he’s a senior. He served as a captain for two years and took newer guards like Marquise Kennedy, Baylor Hebb and Damezi Anderson under his wing. 

He also mentioned working closely with first-year center Jacob Hutson, despite the difference in their positions. 

“Everything works together,” Williamson said. “If one cog in the machine is off, the whole machine shuts down. Me being here long enough, I know what the big should do. I know how important it is for the big to do their job. So I can do my job effectively. I’m telling him things that help me. Like, ‘Hey, if you do this, this will help me and this’ll make both of us better.’”

Alanna Demetrius | The Phoenix Junior guard Lucas Williamson pulls first-years Paxson Wojcik and Tom Welch aside during the game against University of Indianapolis Oct. 29, 2019.

Learning from Richardson, his most frequent form of mentorship is pulling fellow players to the side and providing guidance. Whether those words are of encouragement or recommendation depends on the situation, but Williamson almost serves as another coach with his advice.

He made sure to guide them during the craziness of March Madness. 

Williamson said it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle during the Big Dance. He said he would often tell the guys to treat it like a regular game. He told them to try not to get riled up and to play with confidence.

Photo by Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images Senior guard Lucas Williamson faces off against Georgia Tech’s junior guard Michael Devoe in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Hinkle Fieldhouse March 19, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“I didn’t really understand all that went into winning at this collegiate level [as a freshman].” Williamson said. “Now I understand. I know how hard it is.” 

Despite his accolades, Williamson said he still struggles with the mental game.

He said he has to be 100 percent locked in to play his best, and when he doesn’t have the right passion or energy, he’s an “extremely average player.”

As a leader on the team, it’s important for him to speak out, so even when he isn’t making shots or guarding well, he’s still an asset because of his vocality. 

“If I approach the game with the wrong mentality,” Williamson said. “If I’m quiet, if I’m not talking to guys, if I’m not being a leader that I know that I can be, then, not only am I an average player, I’m just a detriment to the goals that we put on ourselves.” 

One teammate Williamson will be without his fifth year is arguably the one he’s closest to — Cameron Krutwig.

Krutwig and Williamson have been together through the highs of winning the South Region in 2018, to having a crushing loss against Oregon State in the Sweet 16 just a few years later. 

The two were so close that they shared a moment following the loss, locked in an embrace with tears on their cheeks following the loss. 

(Photo Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images Loyola lost to Oregon State in the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 27, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Krutwig, who has decided to try for a professional career, was his roommate and teammate. The pair came into Loyola at the same time and were the only members of their class to play as a Rambler all four years. 

Together they hold the title of winningest players in Loyola men’s basketball history, a mantle Williamson will take over with just one win in the next season. 

“You always want to come in and leave the program better than you found it,” Krutwig said. “When we found it we weren’t Missouri Valley champs, we weren’t in the Final Four. We’re going to leave it with all those accolades.”

They’re also the only two players to see the court in all three of Loyola’s postseason’s appearances over the past four years. 

According to former Loyola head coach Porter Moser, the pair of players helped change the culture of Loyola. The two seniors and Moser worked together to reform the image people thought of when picturing Rambler basketball. 

Courtesy of the MVC Loyola head coach Porter Moser hugs senior guard Lucas Williamson after winning the 2021 MVC Tournament.

“Their focus is on winning first,” Moser said. “Sometimes people are so focused on ‘I gotta score 20, I gotta do this.’ The reality is all that stuff will take care of itself if you focus on the right stuff and those two are focused on the right things every day.” 

Williamson has had quite the journey as a Loyola player and will get to grow his list of accolades, but the biggest thing he’s focusing on his fifth year is making memories. 

“I’m hoping to get into this gym with guys that want to grind and want to win championships,” Williamson said. “I just want to continue to have a great college experience.”

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