Brice Williams

Charlotte redshirt junior guard Brice Williams (3) defending during a game against Old Dominion on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021.

Redshirt junior Brice Williams plans to make his long-awaited return to the Charlotte men's basketball team this season. He redshirted in the 2021-22 season due to a knee injury, keeping him off the court for over a year. Williams said he is ready to get back out there.

"I haven't played in over a year and a half, so I'm excited to be back out on the court," said Williams. "It feels good to be back. Just to be out here with the guys is everything. I love being around them, playing the game and getting better every day."

Head Coach Ron Sanchez said Williams brings a level of experience to the team.

"Brice [Williams] knows exactly how we have to play," said Sanchez. "He brings a different level of experience and has done many good things for us. He is a guy we expect to take another step."

In the 2020-21 season, he was second in scoring on the team in Conference USA (C-USA) games with 11 points per game. While Williams was out, he said he took time to ensure he was ready to return.

"I cleared my head and took a break from the game. I got my body right and, more importantly, my mind right. A lot of the rehab process is taking your time and letting your body heal itself," said Williams.

Coming back after a year and a half is not easy, but Williams had his coaches and teammates by his side.

"The coaches were everything. They were patient, and they gave me everything I needed. Even if that was a ride when I couldn't drive myself, they provided me with the utmost support," said Williams.

During the rehab process, Williams dealt with a medical setback while letting his knee recover.

"I had a setback where my knee became inflamed because I came back a little too early, or maybe I wasn't ready like I thought I was," said Williams. "You have to be thankful for the good and the bad. You grow in the good and more in the bad."

His injury did not stop him from setting goals. Williams said he needs to step into a leadership role to achieve his goals.

"I just want to show up in practice every day and try to lead. I want to show that I bring value to the defensive end and not just the offensive end," said Williams. "I want to be a consistent player and leader every day."

Last season, the 49ers boasted a 17-14 overall record but fell short in the C-USA Championship tournament. The squad enters the season with high expectations as they look to improve from a year ago. Williams said the squad's mentality hasn't changed, and the main goal is winning.

"The main goal is just to win," said Williams.

"That's the team's goal and my goal. That's above any of my personal goals. Of course, I want to do well and excel on the court, but I'd much rather win. We have to be more mentally resilient. We need to band together. When times get hard, we need to look towards the other teammates for support."

In the offseason, the 49ers made additions in the form of Igor Milicic, Lu'Cye Patterson, Montre' Gipson, Josh Aldrich, Nik Graves and Rich Rolf. So, Williams has had to adapt to playing with new teammates.

"I feel like I fit perfectly with them. The team has every bit we need. We must put it all together so we can have a good season," said Williams.

Williams must prove to his coaches and teammates that he deserves to be on the court.

"I want to do what I can to help the team, whether that's defense, scoring, or shooting. I don't plan on forcing anything or having anything handed to me. I want to do whatever the team needs me to do so we can win," said Williams.

Brice's inspiration is his father, Henry Williams, the all-time leading scorer at Charlotte. Henry passed away in 2018 at 47 due to kidney disease. Brice is carrying on the family legacy by playing at his dad's alma mater.

"It's very special even though I try not to think about it," said Williams. "I remember we talked about me coming here and playing. It's bittersweet."

Brice said he wants to embody his father's mental toughness, which was instilled in him from a young age.

"My dad was everything to me. It all hit me when he was gone, just being able to see him wake up every morning and have this mental toughness. That really stuck with me. It's something I want to embody," said Williams.

With the season approaching, Williams is taking it one day at a time and is thankful for the opportunity to play basketball again.

"I'm going to take it day by day. It's a blessing to be here, and it's a blessing to be able to play basketball, let alone walk again."

Williams and the 49ers will play their first game on Monday, Nov. 7, against Coppin State. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. inside Halton Arena.