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Q&A With Jay Williams

Did you ever think that broadcasting would be in your future?

Not at first. Obviously, being 27, I thought I would be playing professional basketball right now. But such things in life do happen, they do occur. You have to adjust to your environment. I always felt somewhat comfortable in college being interviewed so much at Duke. I was pretty much like being a rock star, to tell you the truth. It was a natural progression. After I was hurt, I had a trial run with ESPN in 2003. I played basketball again, and then I just felt so comfortable behind the camera that I decided to go into it full time, and I enjoy it thoroughly.

I know that there are a ton of former people in the media, but then there are those that never played. Do you think your playing experience makes you a better broadcaster than someone who has never played before?

No, I'm not going to say my experience makes me better. The great thing about broadcasting is that each person has their own perspective. That's what the viewer wants to hear. They want to hear different looks, different points of view about situations that occur on the court. Just because I give my experience that does not make my experience more valuable than somebody else's experience who hasn't played the game, maybe from just watching the game or understanding it from a coaches perspective. So I think each point that a person can make is very valuable to the overall content of the broadcast.

Do you think that, since you did go to Duke and there is such a media frenzy around the school where you guys were interviewed by national outlets pretty much after every game, that helped prepare you for broadcasting versus someone who played at a smaller school?

Yeah, I think it did a lot. The ability to address the camera when you speak is important. That helps, you know, when you sit in front of the camera when the lights are on and you know millions of viewers are watching you. When you are playing basketball, you don't have to think. You just react. When you are out there, you do think about the game to a certain degree, but mainly you just react. But in broadcasting, you have to formulate opinions and thoughts and be able to critic teams and analyze certain situations. That's the biggest challenge to being a broadcaster.

Do you think that your Duke education helps you think on the fly like that?

Listen, I still go to political debates now and I tell people all the time because they find it very interesting that I love to have strong opinions that that's what happens when you go to school with people who were scoring 1560s on their SATs. Everyone is quick-witted, and it always makes you be on your toes and ready to answer something. But more importantly, I think going to Duke was a great experience for me because it really helped me understand the value of preparation. Before you go into a game or go into a classroom, the ability to understand the day or what the content of a test is going to be, it's the same way on the broadcasting side - to have the information so understand that no matter what question you are asked, you are always going to be able to bring up some kind of point or counterpoint to have an interactive conversation.

I know Jay Bilas is, obviously, a former Duke player who works at ESPN. When you first started broadcasting, did you contact him to talk about tips and tricks?

Yeah, big time. Jay is great. I actually think he is at the elite of the broadcasting world. He is concise and lets his personality flair up a little bit, but at the same time he can be very neutral and objective. I think those are two very important traits to have as a broadcaster. I definitely reached out for him a couple of times about a couple of issues. Some things, in particular, that I battle with is that I am a Duke alum and I love my school, but I need to be objective. It is difficult thing to do, especially when people associate my name with Duke. So sometimes you might hit fans in the wrong way, and they may not like it and you may receive emails, but it's our job to remain objective and tell it how we see it. Even though, deep down inside, I will always be a Dukie and want to see my team do well.

I was going to ask you about that actually. There is nothing more annoying than watching a game in which the announcers are clearly rooting against your team , but it is good to know that deep down you are still a Dukie and you do feel that way, even if you do have to be objective on the air.

Always. You know, I can never run away from it either. Over the past two years, the guys in Bristol have called me Dukie. I can't run away from it and you, ‘you know what? That's ok.' I embrace it. Coach K has helped me turn into the man I am today. Steve [Wojo], Johnny Dawkins, Chris Collins, they have all had a big part. Nate James was my teammate, we won the national championship in 2001. That school, the amount of work I had to do to graduate in three years, I love it. I have a home in Durham, it will always be home to me, and I always knew that I would become something bigger. But sometimes, I have to be objective.


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