As a senior graduate transfer, Lexus Williams’ time with the Boise State men’s basketball program was always going to be limited.
That hasn’t stopped him from leaving a lasting impression.
Williams was a late but necessary addition to the Broncos’ 2017-18 team, and he will be honored alongside fellow seniors Chris Sengfelder and Chandler Hutchison when Boise State plays its final Mountain West home game of the season against Wyoming at 5 p.m. Saturday (AT&T SportsNet/ROOT) in Taco Bell Arena.
The 6-foot point guard has started all 29 games for the Broncos (22-7, 12-5 MW) and is averaging 8.8 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, but it is his leadership and steady demeanor that have been most valuable.
“Sometimes kids might feel like an outsider if they’re coming in as a senior and these guys have been together for a while. Lexus didn’t do that,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “He put himself right in the middle of it and he became a leader and he really helped Chandler in that way. Before we got Christian and Lexus, Chandler was the only senior. For us to bring in two guys that could help him as much as they did with the leadership part of it, really, you hope to have that, but it’s beyond what you could even hope for.”
Nine months ago, Boise State wasn’t even on Williams’ radar as he searched for a place to transfer after deciding to leave Valparaiso following his junior season.
And Boise State had no idea it would need another point guard until Paris Austin announced his intention to transfer in mid-May.
That’s about the time Williams received a call from Boise State assistant coach Mike Burns. The Broncos were the last team to recruit Williams, who already had made visits to Wisconsin and New Mexico State.
“Coach Burns called me and was just like: ‘Hey, we just lost our point guard. We’ve seen you. We really like you. You’re the perfect guy that can come in and fill the void that we have at the point guard position,’ ” Williams said. “I really had an inclination once I decided to transfer that I would not take any calls that late, just because I felt like if a school is calling me that late, I’m a second option. I didn’t want to go to that type of situation, but Coach Burns just has such a commanding voice.”
The Broncos’ decision to pursue Williams was more about a gut feeling than concrete evidence.
Williams missed his entire sophomore season at Valparaiso because of two knee injuries.
He tore his ACL in his left knee during open gym at the start of the school year in August. Five months after his surgery to repair the injury, Williams was ahead of schedule and preparing to make a late return to the lineup for Valparaiso, which made the NCAA Tournament that year.
But during warmups for a game at Green Bay on Feb. 28, 2016, Williams broke his knee cap in half in the same leg in which he tore his ACL.
“They said it was a freak accident, because I wasn’t landing. I was on my way up,” Williams said. “I was saying to my coach, ‘Why me?’ Then I really collected myself and I was just like: ‘You know what? Rehab again. I’ll come back stronger and I’ll be fine.’ ”
The injury required three screws in his kneecap and another three months of recovery, but he was back in time for his junior year, averaging 22.9 minutes and 5.2 points on the Crusaders’ 24-9 team. He started 21 of Valparaiso’s 33 games that year, but only six of the team’s 18 conference games.
At the end of the 2016-17 season, Williams was told he’d likely only average 10 minutes per game as a senior.
“I could just see the writing on the wall that it was time for me to leave,” Williams said. “I felt like I wasn’t getting the opportunity that I deserved, and it was being given to other guys when I was working really hard. I just felt like I deserved more.”
Boise State could provide Williams with the opportunity he wanted.
“When I was on my visit, we watched film, and they were showing me the clips of when I was playing well,” Williams said. “They said: ‘You can do this all the time. We can tell that they had you on a leash a little bit and didn’t let you do what you are capable of doing. Stats don’t show everything.’ ”
The coaching staff’s inclination about Williams turned out to be true. He attempted just one shot in his first game as a Bronco, but has steadily taken on a bigger and more crucial role as the season has progressed.
“You just saw some things on tape that looked right. He had great hands. He had a good-looking stroke, a good reputation,” Rice said. “He was a high-character guy, and then when we brought him in and got to know him, you just felt like it was a really, really good fit.”
Teammates have taken to Williams remarkably fast because of his mature, cerebral nature.
“When someone challenges me on the court, that might bring something out in me where I want to deflect it or maybe be an overpowering voice, but when Lexus does it to me on the court, I know that that guy can put me in my place and I am going to respect that and I trust that,” Hutchison said. “That’s definitely the relationship we have. There’s been some games where he’s came and grabbed my jersey and been like: ‘Hey, come on. You’ve got to lock in.’ ... It’s never that feeling of wanting to fight it with him. It’s always, ‘OK, I got you.’ I understand because of the trust that we have.”
Williams has developed a reputation for hitting big shots — like the half-court buzzer-beater he made to win at Oregon — and he finally feels settled after an up-and-down college career.
Boise is a place he will always belong.
“It’s been more than I could ask for. I really put myself in a position of long-lasting relationships. The community welcomed me with open arms,” Williams said. “... Boise is a place that I will come back to.”
Mountain West men’s standings
San Diego State
San Jose State
San Jose St. at Air Force, 2 p.m.
Wyoming at Boise St., 5 p.m.
Fresno St. at New Mexico, 7 p.m.
UNLV at Utah St., 7 p.m.
Nevada at San Diego St., 8 p.m.