HUNTINGTON — The concept of home has been on the mind of former Marshall basketball forward Jannson Williams a lot lately.
Last week, Williams decided to enter the NCAA’s transfer portal, opting to find another school instead of coming back to Huntington for what would’ve been a sixth year with the Thundering Herd.
For Williams, it was the end of an era with a city that he will always consider a home.
“They say once you get in these hills, they don’t let you go very easily,” Williams said. “I’m experiencing that right now.”
Entering the transfer portal last Wednesday was only part of the emotional week for Williams.
Two days after he entered the portal, his hometown of Newnan, Georgia, was ravaged by a deadly tornado that ripped through his town and destroyed his old high school, which was 15 minutes from his own home.
Williams and his family were lucky to avoid any major damage.
“No damage, man,” Williams said of his own home. “But there was a three-mile radius around the high school that just got torn up. Everyone is still out there working on it.”
The two life events for Williams brought a flood of memories — from the days in the Newnan gym to his first impressions of Marshall and the last five years with the Herd.
That enlightenment gave him a greater sense of appreciation for where he’s been and some clarity on where he wants to go.
As his chapter at Marshall closes, Williams said there were nothing but fond memories of his time with the Marshall program.
“I’ll really miss the games, especially after the games of the COVID season where not many fans were allowed to come in,” Williams said. “I’m going to miss that family aspect. The fan base, they were so awesome. It felt like I had cousins from out of town coming in every weekend.
“The face-to-face camaraderie with not only the team, but the whole fan base is second to none. I didn’t know I was walking into such an awesome place when I came here from Atlanta.”
As for on-court memories, there are plenty that come to mind for Williams — and even a few memories that don’t come to mind, thanks to a severe concussion suffered in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against West Virginia during his freshman season.
“I’ll definitely remember the shot at Western [Kentucky] because I hate Western,” Williams joked. “And I would say March Madness, but I got knocked out cold, so I don’t remember much from San Diego. I remember hitting a 3 from the corner against Wichita State and I remember, after the win, climbing what seemed like 150 rows to sit with my Mom and celebrate. Everything else, before and after, I don’t really remember, though.”
As Williams moves forward, he still wants to be a part of basketball and is looking into several offers he’s received to continue the final year of his college career.
Williams also has a business venture that he started with friends and is looking to expand, so all those factors will play into his next move.
While Williams’ next move remains to be seen, the Herd’s all-time career leader in blocked shots said he is focused on playing in 2021-22 and that, no matter where it is, Marshall will always be home — even, perhaps, a place he may have a home one day.
“I’m probably going to have a house here, just so I can come back for Marshall football games and Marshall basketball games and be able to experience it from the other side — hang out with some of those I’ve grown close with while here,” Williams said. “This place is special to me, and it will always be a second home.”