Xeyrius Williams believes he has found the perfect spot to finish his college basketball career. The former Dayton Flyers forward and Wayne High School graduate verbally committed to the University of Akron on Monday, picking the Zips over Kent State after visiting both schools in recent weeks.
“Akron really, really just won me over,” Williams said. “They showed me the opportunity they’re going to have for me. I really bought into that. I loved their plans to utilize me. I have to sit out one year, and I love their plan for me in my off year. It’s a really important year for me, health-wise and skill-wise on the court. After I came back from my Kent State visit and talked to both coaches and really talking to Akron, I really felt they were 100 percent about me and wholeheartedly wanted me in their program. I wanted to be in the program, too. I’m 100 percent all in.”
Williams, a 6-foot-8 forward, will have to sit out the 2018-19 season and will finish his career with the Zips in the 2019-20 season. He will finish this semester at Dayton and arrive at Akron on June 12.
Williams joins a program entering its second season under head coach John Groce, who was hired when Keith Dambrot left for Duquesne. The Zips were 14-18 last season. That ended a streak of 12 straight 20-win seasons.
“I love coach Groce,” Williams said. “I love his excitement. I love his honesty. I love his plan for me. He talked a lot about what I need to work on. I love that. I love the development piece. I still need to develop. I’ve only scratched the surface of my potential. He really wants to develop me, and I’m ready to go to work for him.”
The year away from the court — at least in game action — will give him a chance to get healthy. He battled a back injury last season.
“I’m at about 90 percent,” Williams said. “(Groce) wants me to make sure I’m at 100 and there’s no question and I’m not going to do anything to reset the process.”
Williams announced March 13 he was leaving Dayton after three seasons. He was one of five underclassmen to leave the program. He appeared in 18 games last season, averaging 5.0 points and 3.1 rebounds as the Flyers finished 14-17. He had a breakout year as a sophomore, averaging 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds.
The season did not go as planned. Williams started the season in the starting lineup and played 34-plus minutes in each of the first four games, averaging 11.3 points. Then he missed the next five games with a back injury.
Asked what the main reason he left Dayton was, Williams said, “There was just a disconnect with the coaching staff. I didn’t like their plan for me. It’s a good group of guys, a good coaching staff, but our plans didn’t match up. I want to go to a place where the coaches’ plan and my plan match up. We both want to win championships. I know basketball’s not done for me after these two years. I want to find a program that’s going to set me up for life after college and even life after basketball.”
» EARLIER COVERAGE: Name, game set Williams apart
Williams played for Atlantic 10 championship teams in his first two seasons and said he will have good memories of all his Dayton teammates, especially his fellow members of the 2015 recruiting class: Ryan Mikesell, John Crosby and Sam Miller. Only Mikesell remains with the program.
“We had plans to do something big for the university,” Williams said. “It sucks that it couldn’t be done because of this past year’s circumstances.”
In posts to Twitter and Instagram, Williams thanked the Dayton fans who watched him play the last three seasons.
“You guys have been there through the ups and downs,” Williams wrote. “I also want to thank all the people, managers, coaches and especially my teammates/brothers who I had the opportunity to play alongside. You guys have all influenced my life in a positive way, and I’ll always cherish the brotherhood and the memories we made as a team.”