Born: September 10, 1981
Jason David Williams was born September 10, 1981 in Plainfield. He went by Jason as a boy but after entering the NBA he preferred Jay so as not to be confused with former Net Jayson Williams, who had been charged with manslaughter months earlier. Growing up, Jay was one of those kids who excelled at almost ever sport he tried. He was a quick and intelligent athlete who starred in games ranging from soccer to volleyball. He was also a fine chess player.
Jay starred in basketball for St. Joseph High School in the 1990s. St. Joseph’s was a prep school in nearby Metuchen. As a senior in 1998–99, he was an All-State and All-American guard and New Jersey Player of the Year. A solid A– student, Jay had his pick of colleges. He accepted a scholarship from Duke, and was part of a freshman class that included Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer. The stars of the team were Shane Battier and Chris Carrawell. Jay was third in scoring and first in assists for a team that went 15–1 in the ACC and made it to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to Florida. Jay was Freshman of the Year in the ACC.
In 2000–01, Jay smashed Dick Groat’s school scoring record and led the Blue Devils to the national championship. He was first in the ACC with a 21.6 scoring average and second with 6.1 assists. In the NCAA Tournament, Jay upped his average over 25 points per game and rained 3-pointers on Duke opponents. The Blue Devils beat Monmouth, Missouri, UCLA, USC and Maryland to set up a championship showdown with the Arizona Wildcats. Jay scored 16 points in an 82–72 victory.
In 2001–02, Jay earned the Wooden Award and Naismith Award as national Player of the Year. He averaged 21.3 points per game and led Duke back to the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils blew a big lead against Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen and lost by a point. The game was Jay’s final as a collegian. He entered the NBA Draft that spring and was taken with the second overall pick by the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls were in the midst of a long down period after the departure of Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan in 1998. They used their high picks to build a stockpile of talent that included Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler and Jamal Crawford. The plan was for Jay to become the team’s floor leader. His rookie season was reasonably successful; he averaged just under 10 points a game and was second on the team in assists. He also got Jordan’s old locker.
A few weeks after the 2002–03 ended, Jay was riding a motorcycle in Chicago—in violation of his contract—and revved it believing it was in neutral. It wasn’t. The left side of the bike clipped a streetlight and he suffered nerve and knee damage in his left leg and also fractured his pelvis. The Bulls waived Jay, but gave him enough money to rehab his leg. While working his way back into playing shape, he worked college games as a broadcaster for ESPN.
In 2006, after 10 surgeries, Jay felt he was ready to try a comeback. He signed a non-guaranteed deal with his hometown Nets, but did not make he team in training camp. The old quickness was gone. He worked out for the Miami Heat a few years later, but they were not interested in signing him. Jay moved back to Durham and has continued his work as a college basketball broadcaster.