When Donald (Duck) Williams (above) was an honor student and basketball star at Mackin High School in Washington, D.C., his principal, Brother Ralph Jaworski, told him, "Donald, there is one thing I want you to do for me. Go to Notre Dame." Brother Ralph died before Williams enrolled, but, then, George Gipp did not live to see his teammates triumph, either. Thus are legends made.
Brother Ralph had sent another basketball player to South Bend, Austin Carr. And like his predecessor, Williams has emerged as the star of the team. In his freshman year Duck did not resemble the player he was quacked up to be, but he came off the bench often enough as a sophomore to rank second on the team in points scored and minutes played. Last year he was the leader in both departments, averaging 18.1 points and 32.1 minutes on a well-balanced 22-7 team.
In the last two seasons, Williams' late-game shooting has keyed big wins over Cincinnati, Maryland and San Francisco. He is the perfect man for those crucial moments, because he does not like to pass the ball any more than is absolutely necessary. "When we need a basket, Duck is the man who will get it for us," says Forward Bruce Flowers, one of four returning starters.
After spending part of the summer as a doorman in the Senate gallery, Williams returned to school eager for his senior year, in which he will be a co-captain. "Even if I hadn't been elected, I still would have taken a leadership role," he says. He figures Notre Dame can be even better than it was last season. And it should be, because the experienced starters are supported by five good freshmen, three of whom were high school All-Americas.
Notre Dame's chances for the national title will be enhanced if Bill Laimbeer plays as well as he showed he could two years ago as a freshman. Before flunking out of school after one semester, the 6'11", 250-pound center was emerging as a dominant figure. He has not played competitively since then, having spent last year boning up on his studies at a junior college in his hometown of Toledo, but Coach Digger Phelps is pleased to see that "Bill doesn't look at all like he has been away a year and a half."
The Irish schedule features nine tournament teams from last season, including NCAA champ Marquette and NIT winner St. Bonaventure. But this is mitigated by the fact that Notre Dame will play 17 games at home, where roaring crowds and Williams' shooting make the Irish almost unbeatable.