#FreeRashad comes to an end as league play continues

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Courtesy of Oakland Athletics

Transfer point guard Rashad Williams was announced as eligible to play on Thursday, Jan. 16.

Michael Pearce, Sports Editor

Before the start of the 2019-2020 men’s basketball season, most around the Horizon League were wondering if transfer point guard Rashad Williams would be suiting up for the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies or forced to sit out. When the season started, it seemed like he would be making his debut in 2020, but no one expected it to be in the beginning of the new year.

“I was going through a lot of stuff in Cleveland and I felt like I needed to be around my family to have that support,” he said.

After his transfer waiver was denied, the hashtag #FreeRashad became a common phrase fans would use. An hour before tip-off Thursday, Jan. 16, Williams was announced as eligible to play for the first time. He made the start at point guard against the Green Bay Phoenix, ending #FreeRashad.

Williams and the men’s team learned of the decision to clear him a few days before the game against Green Bay.

“I told coach if I was ready to play, I wanted to play,” Williams said. “Me being a competitor, I was hoping I’d get cleared so I could help the team reach our goals.”

In a 73-69 loss against the Phoenix, Williams recorded 16 points, two assists and four rebounds. Head Coach Greg Kampe wasted no time getting him point guard minutes, as Williams played for 36 of 40 minutes.

The drama surrounding the junior transfer was based on Cleveland State refusing to grant him immediate eligibility, so Williams had to apply for a waiver from the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) to play. On Nov. 1, 2019, Williams was officially denied, as reported by Jon Rothstein. He appealed, and was denied again.

“[Being denied] was heartbreaking,” he said. “Basketball has always been near and dear to me. No matter what I’ve been going through in life, I’ve always had basketball — almost as a safe haven. To not have that … it hurt.”

Williams was not the only player affected by this. Rasheem Dunn, who left Cleveland State for St. John’s, received a waiver 12 days after Williams was initially denied.

On Thursday, Jan. 24, he made his home debut against the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames. In 33 minutes, he scored 12 points in the 80-50 home loss. Playing in front of loved ones, which Williams can now do at Oakland, has always been a goal of his.

“Growing up in Detroit, I always saw Oakland and the blacktop and wanted to play there,” Williams said. “It was great to play in front of my family and friends, which was the main reason I came here.”

The men’s basketball team is currently on a three-game road trip, with games against the University of Detroit Mercy, Northern Kentucky University and Wright State University, the latter two being top two teams in the conference.

Despite a turbulent beginning of the season for the team, Williams still believes the Golden Grizzlies can reach their ultimate goal: the NCAA tournament.

“This team — this year — we have a great chance of winning the Horizon League tournament and reaching the NCAA tournament, which is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.