Rashad Williams ’02 was in China when he got the news from Brandeis athletic director Sheryl Sousa ’90. “I was definitely happy to get that email,” Williams says. “It came on my birthday, so it was quite a present.”
The well-timed announcement? On October 12, Williams will be honored with induction into the university’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
Not that this should be a big surprise. During his Brandeis career, Williams broke a 44-year-old record to become the university’s all-time leading scorer in men’s basketball.
Williams arrived at Brandeis in 1997 as a member of the Transitional Year Program (TYP), which meant he had to take a rare break from basketball. “I wasn’t allowed to practice with the team, but this allowed me to get my crew around me and focus on academics,” Williams recalls.
Once he joined the basketball squad a year later, he started scoring — and scoring some more. When he eclipsed the 1,000-point mark early in his junior campaign, teammates started to whisper that the all-time career scoring mark, then held by Rudy Finderson ’58, was well within his reach.
Williams smashed that mark in February of his senior season, then went on to pile on more than 200 points before reaching his ultimate career total: 1,928 points. He led the University Athletic Association in scoring three times and was an All-UAA selection four times. (In fall 2012, he was named to the UAA Silver Anniversary team.)
After graduation, Williams, an American studies major, had opportunities to play professional basketball. “I worked out for teams, and could have played overseas,” he says. “But I was a little bit tired of basketball at that point.” Nor was he eager to put an ocean between him and the woman who’s now his wife, Marsha Pierre-Jacques ’01.
So he worked at a sports promotions and marketing agency in Boston for a while before moving into the sneaker industry. Williams was senior product manager at Adidas Originals for several years, a position that prompted his relocation to the Pacific Northwest.
For the past two years, he’s been at Nike in Beaverton, Ore., serving as product-line manager for the company’s Michael Jordan brand, a job that involves plenty of globe-trotting. Williams also gets to work directly with such NBA superstars as Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin to develop their on-the-court footwear. “Most athletes I deal with appreciate that you can connect with them on a basketball level,” he notes.
Williams even gets the odd request to lace up. When Chris Paul of the L.A. Clippers visited the Nike campus during the NBA’s 2012 lockout, he asked Williams to join his regular pickup game to help him stay in shape.
— Adam Levin