WINDSOR TERRACE — When Bishop Ford High School graduate Chaz Williams got his first look at the Barclays Center a few months ago, he snapped some photos on his cell phone and wondered if he might get a chance to play there some day.
That day came sooner than expected, as Williams, a junior point guard at the University of Massachusetts, prepares to come home to his native Brooklyn next week for his first game at the Barclays Center, just 2 miles away from where he was a top scorer for the Bishop Ford Falcons.
The new arena will be hosting the Atlantic 10 college basketball tournament — the first-ever college basketball tournament held in New York City — from March 14 to 17. The winner will get an automatic spot in the NCAA tournament later this month.
For Williams, who said he doesn't make it back to Brooklyn as often as he'd like to during the season, the tournament is an unexpected homecoming.
"I thought one day eventually I would be able play at Barclays, but I didn't think it would be as soon as this year," Williams said. "It's a great feeling. I never imagined in my college career that I would play a college tournament in Brooklyn."
The 21-year-old Williams is currently ranked fifth in the country for assists in NCAA Division I, and recently passed the 1,000-point mark in his career. Williams landed 25 in a ranking of the 50 best college point guards by CBS Sports in 2012.
Williams, who grew up in Bushwick, can count on a sizeable cheering section. In addition to some former Bishop Ford coaches, he's expecting many family members to attend, including his grandmother and his 3-year-old daughter, Cheree.
"For my whole family to be there at once, it's going to make me want to play harder," Williams said. "Just seeing them in the stands will give me that much more encouragement."