By Anthony Covino
Elyjah Williams, the star forward for men’s basketball, has committed to Northwestern University for his final year of eligibility, he said on his Instagram account on Monday, April 12.
Williams is from Evanston, Ill., just 20 miles north of Chicago-based Northwestern.
FDU has now lost two starters as all-NEC point guard Jahlil Jenkins announced his transfer commitment to Stony Brook last Thursday.
“I am so happy for both Jahlil and Elyjah for giving us four unprecedented years here at Fairleigh Dickinson,” FDU head coach Greg Herenda told The Equinox via email.
“The combination of Jahlil’s quickness and speed and Elyjah’s strength and explosiveness will go down as one of the great one-two combinations in FDU history.”
FDU finished the 20-21 season with a 9-15 record, 8-10 in the Northeast Conference. Williams was named Preseason All-NEC and earned third team All-NEC honors this season, averaging 14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 blocked shots per game. Williams shot 55.6 percent from the field, and 42 percent from three, and 63.5 percent from the free-throw line
The 2019 season was the best season Jenkins and Williams had together, winning the NEC Tournament and leading FDU to its first NCAA Tournament win with a 82-76 win over Prairie View A&M in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio. FDU fell to No. 1-seeded Gonzaga, 87-49, in the first round, a great run for the Knights.
“As happy as I am for Jahlil and Elyjah, I am excited for our program to move on and continue our path to future success,” Herenda said.
FDU has three signees for next year: Antoine Jacks, a 5-10 point guard from Our Lady of Good Counsel in Greenbelt, Md.; Ray Ford Jr., a 6-3 guard from St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City; and Ibrahim Wattara, a 6-5 forward from Springfield Commonwealth Academy in the Bronx. Herenda has two more scholarship slots available.
“The core of our team is intact and I am extremely excited about this group’s upside,” Herenda said.
Next year, FDU is looking to sophomore forwards Pier Olivier-Racine and John Square Jr. to make the starting lineup. Wattara is another big man who could also start alongside junior Daniel Rodriguez and redshirt junior Marc Dadika. Sophomore guard and 2020 All-NEC Rookie Devon Dunn is expected to return next season after opting out last season due to COVID-19 concerns.
With 1,050 career points, Williams is No. 29 on the FDU all-time scoring list. He is seventh in blocked shots (124), 11th in rebounds (685) and steals (115). Williams stands fifth all time in fouls (292).
Williams makes the big step to the Big Ten Conference where Northwestern finished 9-15 with a 6-13 Big Ten record.
Before the season began FDU senior guard/forward Xzavier Malone-Key opted out due to COVID-19 concerns and entered the NCAA transfer portal and transferred to Oregon State University. Senior guard Brandon Powell is currently in the transfer portal as well.
The NCAA introduced the transfer portal in 2018 to help college athletes and administrators manage the transfer process in a more transparent manner. The number of players entering the portal now is well over 1,200 this year, up from 1,000 last year, according to BustingBrackets, a blog that covers the NCAA. The portal is not available to the public, but coaches can view it.
Image courtesy of Elyjah Williams’ Instagram