College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning until practice tips off.

On Sundays, we’ll dip into our vast News-Gazette archives and stroll Memory Lane. Today: The greatness of Frank Williams. Father of current Illini Da’Monte Williams, Frank was a high school star, Big Ten MVP and NBA draft pick whose casual approach still left some fans wanting more.

WEIGH IN: Tell us your Frank stories here

A look back in pictures:

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Of Frank Williams' many clutch shots at Illinois, none was bigger than his dagger against Minnesota to win a share of the Big Ten championship in 2002. In a raucous setting at “The Barn,” he made a driving layup with 2.9 seconds left to cap a 10-0 game-closing run. 

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IHSA state champs from Peoria Manual - Sergio McClain, Marcus Griffin and Frank Williams - joined us for a photo shoot along Neil Street in Champaign. They would go on to lead the Illini to three sensational seasons from 1999-2000 through 2001-02.

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Frank Williams, left, and coach Bill Self react to the crowd as they celebrate their 63-61 win over Michigan State on Feb. 12, 2002, in East Lansing, Mich. Williams was a key part in Self's success, twice winning team MVP honors while helping deliver 75 wins. He went on to become 1 of 20 players named to Illinois’ All-Century Team.

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The 2001 Illinois basketball team members strike a memorable pose originated by the 'Wiz Kids' in the 194's at picture day on Oct. 12, 2001. From left are: Corey Bradford, Lucas Johnson, Brian Cook, Robert Archibald, Damir Krupalija, Frank Williams and Sean Harrington. Those players helped Bill Self’s first Illinois team won a Big Ten co-championship, earned No. 1 seeds in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, advanced to the Elite Eight and captured the second-most wins in school history (27).

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Frank Williams drives down the court with heavy pressure from Arkansas' Jannero Pargo at the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 8, 2001. Williams was a wizard the ball in his hands, finishing his Illini career with 1,440 points, 432 assists and 212 steals.

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Frank Williams signs the back of Mary Fehner's Illinois T-shirt outside the Willard Airport terminal on March 3, 2002. More than 600 people gathered to welcome the team home after they beat Minnesota in a dramatic come-from-behind, last-second victory, to share the Big Ten title. 

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Frank Williams, Cory Bradford and Robert Archibald meet the media at Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., ahead of the NCAA tournament in 2002. With Williams at point guard, the Illini went 6-3 in NCAA tournament games.

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As a sophomore,  Frank Williams was the Big Ten Player of the Year, a third-team AP All-American and the team leader in scoring (14.9 ppg), assists (148) and steals (67).

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Frank Williams showed his potential during a Schlarman Burger King Topper Classic high school game in Danville on Nov. 26, 1997. In 1998, he was named the state's Mr. Basketball, eventually picking Illinois and coach Lon Kruger.

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Antonio McDyess, left, and Frank Williams, right, join Knicks coach Don Chaney at a news conference on June 28, 2002, in New York. The Nuggets traded McDyess, the rights to Williams and a 2003 second-round draft pick to the Knicks for Marcus Camby, Mark Jackson and the rights to Nene Hilario. Williams was the 25th pick of the 2002 draft. "He’s better than the 25th pick,” UI coach Bill Self said. "The New York Knicks are getting a guy who will be a starting point guard at some point in the very near future with the 25th pick. I would think it would be a great situation for them.” Said Williams: "I feel I’m ready for it. I know it’s a tough place, but I’ve been through a lot and I feel like I’m ready to play there. I’m excited about it.”

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Former Illini Frank Williams takes in the game vs Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 12, 2017, at State Farm Center. Once a star on the court, he can be found in the stands these days rooting on his son.

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Frank Williams and Lucas Johnson embraces after the Elite Eight loss to Arizona at the Alamodome in San Antonio in 2001.

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