HUNTINGTON — For Marshall senior forward Jannson Williams, there is only one way to celebrate the Thundering Herd men’s basketball team’s first home game in nearly a month.
Williams is planning on hosting a block party at Cam Henderson Center on Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (4 p.m.) when Middle Tennessee comes for a weekend visit.
That’s because the senior forward from Newnan, Georgia, is poised to move into the No. 1 spot alone on Marshall’s career list of blocked shots.
Williams is tied with NBA talent Hassan Whiteside with 182 in his career.
That means Williams’ first block of the weekend will put him atop the Herd ranks, so he made sure to get everyone into town to celebrate the accomplishment.
“That block record is really close and I’ve got my whole family coming,” Williams said. “We’re all very excited.”
While Williams is eager to vault past Whiteside for the all-time record in blocks at Marshall, he made sure to pay homage to the guy who set the bar to reach in a short period of time with the Herd.
“Hassan Whiteside did that in one season, and that just blows my ever-loving mind,” Williams said. “How? It took me four years!”
There is a bit of irony to Williams’ ascent to the throne as the king of blocks at Marshall University.
When he came to Marshall for his freshman season, there was one record that he had an eye on — and it certainly wasn’t on the defensive end.
“When I first showed up, my goal — I was dead-set on beating [Austin] Loop’s 3-point record,” Williams said. “I remember being asked about that a couple times.”
One of Williams’ top performances during his freshman season came on the road in a 76-67 win over No. 24 Middle Tennessee, when he scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
It was the first double-double of his career and his first time beating a ranked team, which is still why he loves playing Middle Tennessee.
In that freshman year, Williams played at the four position with Ajdin Penava at the five as Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni shifted his lineup to an athletic look that could shoot at all five positions to create problems for the opposition.
It was in that role that Williams learned he was more than just a shooter for the Herd, which earned the program’s first Conference USA championship and NCAA Tournament win that year.
Williams took the knowledge he learned from Penava during his freshman season and applied it once he moved to the five position after Penava’s departure.
“I was a four when Ajdin was here, and when he left we definitely needed a five and I learned a lot from him,” Williams said. “I figured out that defense is one of my strong suits.”
Last weekend, Williams had five blocks against FIU to move past Penava into second all-time in Marshall history with 181 blocks. He added one more on Saturday to match Whiteside’s mark of 182.
For Williams, the emergence of defense on the basketball court actually has been prompted by his proficiency in another sport — beach volleyball.
Williams, who played competitive volleyball prior to his time at Marshall, said the disciplines in both sports are comparable.
“I played beach volleyball, love the sport still to this day,” Williams said. “One of the main things you have to do is learn how to hit, learn how to block.
“You’re going straight up and reaching as high as you can and then making a move after you got to the highest spot. I’ve transitioned that from volleyball to basketball. It definitely helped me out, especially with the hand-eye coordinator part.”
This weekend, Williams sets his sights on the record against a Middle Tennessee team known for having tough players who like to challenge at the rim.
While Williams knows the Blue Raiders (5-11 overall, 3-7 Conference USA) want to crash his block party, he’s more than willing to throw out invitations and welcome his guests from Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
“When the guards are coming downhill, they have one thing in mind: score,” Williams said. “My whole ordeal is to go block it.”