Former Marianna High School basketball star Herman Williams died Monday afternoon after collapsing while playing basketball at First Baptist Marianna. He was later taken to Jackson Hospital but he was unable to be revived. He was 19 years old. The cause of death hasn’t yet been determined.
Williams, who just graduated from MHS, played basketball and football for the Bulldogs but excelled most on the hardcourt where he earned a scholarship to play for Louisiana-Lafayette. A 6-foot-3 guard, he played all four years for the Marianna varsity, missing most of his junior year due to injury.
He bounced back with a strong senior season in 2015-16, averaging 17 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists while leading the Bulldogs to 20 wins and a playoff appearance. Williams played for the East team in the All Star Classic at Rutherford in April.
Travis Blanton coached Williams through his first three seasons with Marianna and said that, as formidable as his basketball talents were, he’ll remember his former player more for what he was off the court.
“He was just a better person than he was a player,” he said. “He chose to be a good person. He chose to be compassionate and attentive to others’ needs. He was the type of guy who would come into the gym and little kids would be in there, and he’d tell these young guys to come down there and include them in what he was doing.
“He just had a great spirit about him and a charisma. That’s a gift that not everybody has. He made people want to help him. He had a tremendous work ethic and great character. He was a tremendous leader and a fierce competitor. He had his whole life in front of him.”
Current Marianna coach Matt Anderson only got to coach Williams for a single season but said that he was everything that he was advertised to be on the off the court.
“I’ll remember mostly his leadership capabilities. He came in and, as I had been told, was our hardest worker on the court and a very vocal leader in practice,” he said. “Because he worked so hard in our drills, the players really followed his lead because they knew that what he was telling them to do he was doing himself. He just made my job a lot easier.”
Williams was scheduled to leave for college in two weeks to join the Ragin’ Cajuns’ other incoming freshmen from a five-person 2016 recruiting class. Anderson said that for Williams to be that close to fulfilling one of his big dreams only to have it taken away was a very difficult pill to swallow.
“He had worked so hard to get to that point,” he said. “To see it gone in the blink of an eye is so disheartening. It’s very tough.”
Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin released a statement on Williams’ passing in which he referred to him as a “bright young man with a very bright future,” and said he was “going to be a perfect compliment to our team, both as a person as well as a basketball player.”
“We are very saddened by this unexpected loss and it has hit our program hard,” Marlin said. “Herman celebrated a 19th birthday on Sunday and was scheduled to be here (in Lafayette) on July 5 for his second summer session. (Former assistant) Coach (Gus) Hauser and I talked with him yesterday afternoon, and then we got this awful news last night. It’s a very difficult time for our program and I would appreciate all of our fans keeping Herman, his family and our Ragin’ Cajuns basketball family in your thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks.”
A candlelight vigil was set to take place Tuesday night at Marianna High School. His funeral is also scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. at the high school, preceded by a two-hour viewing starting at noon.