By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY Liberty Central School’s Dashawn Williamson, a senior on the Indians’ varsity basketball team, was honored last week by the Basketball Coaches Association of New York (BCANY) as a 2008-2009 Class B-C-D All-Star.
“He’s a top athlete every time he steps on the floor,” Liberty Coach Jason Semo, who also serves as the district’s Director of Athletics, said of Williamson. “Every coach talked about what a great kid he is and that’s important. He’s realizing the harder he works, the easier things get.
“Dashawn, he did it all, and he excelled at it all, he was one of the team leaders,” Semo added.
During the recently completed 2008-2009 season, the 18-year-old Williamson posted some pretty impressive stats every time he set his size 12 sneakers on the court. He averaged 18.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
Williamson, who was a guard/forward for the Indians, is 6 feet, 2 inches tall and has a wing span of 6 feet, 9 inches. He has the ability to bench press 185 lbs.
Asked when he began playing basketball, Williamson replied, “When I first learned how to walk, living with my parents in the Bronx.”
He began attending school in Liberty in fifth grade and was a member of the Indians’ modified basketball team guided by Coach John Wilhelm.
“He was a good coach, he knew what he was doing,” Williamson said of Wilhelm. “I learned how to hustle and run up and down the court, playing organized basketball.”
On the Indians’ junior varsity squad, Williamson refined the game of hoops under the watchful eye of Coach Chris Sinceno.
“He just let us play ball and relax,” Williamson said of Sinceno.
Williamson first suited up for Semo’s varsity squad in the 2007-2008 season.
“He’s the best,” Williamson said of Semo. “I learned how to be a man, how to act on and off the court and take what I learned on the court and use it in everyday life [such as] to present yourself decently and treat others like you would like to be treated.”
One of the things that made Williamson call playing for the Indians “great” is the school athletic department’s policy of inviting some outstanding players of the past to stop in and talk sports with the current student-athletes. Those great players of the past include the likes of Reggie Biddings, Jamie Black and Kaseem Sinceno, all of whom left their imprint at Liberty Central School and then moved on to greater recognition in the world of sports.
“There’s a rich tradition here of great basketball,” Semo said. “When there’s a big game, the old guys come back. They still have that sense of pride. They want to see these guys play with everything they have.”
Williamson said his highlight of the 2008-2009 season was playing against the Monticello Panthers in the first annual Coaches vs. Cancer Showcase game last month at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse on the campus of Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake.
“Coach Semo’s father has cancer, and he wanted us to go out and play for his father,” Williamson said.
Semo said that in the past the basketball rivalry between Liberty and Monticello “has been about bragging rights and it evolved into a lot of the wrong things.”
But the tide turned in last month’s fundraiser game for the American Cancer Society.
“That was all put aside, they held onto the competition,” Semo commented. “There was an added sense of sportsmanship and respect.”
Williamson’s take on sportsmanship?
“Playing together as a team, not trash talking and all that,” he said. “It’s basketball, it’s getting after it for 32 minutes.”
Williamson is currently checking our several college options.
“We’re looking for the right school, the right program, one that’s going to allow him to work very hard,” Semo said. “Dashawn has really developed a great work ethic, [and] he needs a school that will allow him to meet his full potential as a basketball player, person and student. He needs to be the best he can be.”
One thing that impressed Semo is Williamson’s desire to give back to the community. On Saturdays this winter, Williamson helped out at the Town of Liberty Parks and Recreation Department’s youth basketball program.
“What you learn on the court, you have to take off the court and use it in life,” Semo said.
“In today’s society, it’s easy for kids to make excuses why they aren’t successful,” he said. “Making excuses is no longer an option at Liberty.”
As an example of “Liberty Pride” and his no-excuses policy, Semo cited the Indians’ two-point loss to John S. Burke Catholic High School in a Feb. 23 game that witnessed four lead changes in the final quarter. It was the game which ended Liberty’s hopes of qualifying for this year’s Section IX Class B Tournament.
“After the game, the kids were devastated, but they were completely self-fulfilled they gave everything they had,” Semo explained. “We didn’t measure our success this year in terms of wins or losses, but where these boys are going to be down the road, and the lessons they learned about becoming young men.”
Williamson proved he was a young man of few words when he was asked about being selected to the Section IX Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Team.
“I take basketball very seriously, and to be recognized in basketball is a great honor,” he said.