Helena’s Josh Williams earns Shelby County Player of the Year

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

Ask many people around the county coming into the season, and they knew about Helena senior guard Josh Williams’ talent and skill.

After all, Williams was fresh off finishing in the top three in the county in scoring, earning a spot on the All-County First Team and impressing in the North-South All-Star Game during the summer.

However, with six seniors gone from the Huskies’ 2022-23 area title team, Williams would need to step up even more and become a true leader in his senior season.

Going into the year, that’s exactly what he and his coach Lucas McDonald wanted to accomplish.

“These guys have both grown basketball-wise and leadership-wise, and they’re taking on a new role, which they should, as seniors,” McDonald said before the season. “You’re only going to go as far as your senior leadership takes you.”

That statement rang true throughout the season. As Helena’s senior class progressed, so did the team, with Williams in the center of it all.

As for where the seniors took them, they took the Huskies all the way to their first Final Four in program history. And the name on the signs and receiving the most cheers in Legacy Arena was Josh Williams, now not just a star on the court, but a hometown hero.

His role as the leader of Helena’s historic team made him the only right choice for Shelby County Player of the Year.

Williams not only led the Huskies in scoring but was one of the top offensive players in the county, averaging 18.7 points per game, the second-most in Shelby County.

He was also a key hustle player for Helena, getting to loose balls and crashing the boards even as a guard with his 6-foot-3 frame.

That showed in his 7.3 rebounds per game, the third-most in the county and first among guards, as well as his 67 total steals, tied for the second-most in the county.

While he was the unquestioned leader of the Huskies on the court and the stat sheet, Williams will be the first to tell you he’s just one part of the team as a whole.

His selflessness was apparent throughout the season as he ran the court as a floor general point guard, directing traffic and enabling his teammates to get into good scoring opportunities with his 3.0 assists per game.

His skillset made him a difficult matchup night in and night out, and drawing those top assignments helped him enable the rest of the weapons within McDonald’s multi-dimensional style.

As a result, teammates like Ian Johnigan, Drew Davis, Joseph King and many more had improved seasons and contributed right alongside Williams throughout the season.

However, when he took over the game himself, Williams’ skills on the ball and stellar shooting ability shined through and led to some of the most iconic moments of Helena’s season.

Williams stepped up when it mattered the most, putting up a dominant 33 points and 15 rebounds against Benjamin Russell in the Sweet 16 in one of the statement performances of the entire postseason, and he followed that up with 26 in the Elite Eight against McAdory.

Both scoring efforts were team highs as the Huskies reached new heights and made it all the way to the Final Four, falling only to the defending and eventual repeat state champion Buckhorn.

While few outside the walls of Helena High School expected this kind of success, Williams knew his team’s potential and what it would take to accomplish their goals after using last season’s sub-regionals loss to Chilton County as motivation.

“Going into this year, it was different,” Williams said after the Elite Eight win over McAdory. “This year, we knew we could get past regionals and get through the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, it was just a mindset for us to make it happen.”

In the end, that mindset delivered not just a second-straight area championship, a first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2019, a historic first-ever berth in the Final Four, and for Williams, a spot atop the county as the 2024 Shelby County Player of the Year to finish off an unforgettable career at Helena High School.

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