Henry Williams, the leading scorer in Charlotte 49ers basketball history who went on to become a superstar in Italy, died Tuesday of kidney disease. He was 47.
A sad day for #NinerNation with the passing of @49ersBasketball legend and all-time leading scorer #34 Henry Williams. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Williams family. pic.twitter.com/DrfQOnBN5A
— Charlotte 49ers (@Charlotte49ers) March 14, 2018
Jeff Mullins, the former Golden State Warriors star who was Charlotte's head coach during Williams' four years at the school, told the Charlotte Observer, "He was everything you looked for in a young man …"
“We have lost a fine young man,” Mullins said. “It wasn’t just the way he shot and played. You had to look at him as a total person. He was a leader, well spoken and did everything around campus. He was everything you looked for in a young man, who also happened to be a very good basketball player.”
Williams burst onto the scene as a freshman guard in the 1988-89 season, scoring 17.4 points per game, earning honorable mention All-America honors from Sporting News, and making the UPI Freshman All-America team.
"He reminds me in some ways of Michael Jordan," longtime Charlotte Observer columnist Ron Green wrote during Williams' freshman year.
Blessed with both great shooting range and the ability to drive the lane and dunk despite being only 6-2, Williams would go on to score 2,383 career points to become the career leading scorer in 49ers history.
As a senior, Williams averaged 20.8 points and the AP named him an honorable mention All-American.
Drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round (No. 44 overall) in the 1992 NBA Draft, Williams never played a game in the league. He instead opted to play in Italy, where he had a 10-year career and earned the nickname “Il Nuevo Ri” ("The New King"). He was the Italian League MVP in 1996.
Immediately after his career, Williams had several business ventures, and also served briefly as a broadcaster for the Charlotte Hornets. But he found his true calling as a minister. Williams had been ordained in 1996, and became minister of Charlotte's Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in 2004.
Former NBA All-Star guard Kenny Anderson, who was a teammate of Williams on the U.S. Goodwill Games team in 1990, paid tribute to Williams on Twitter.
R.I.P. to my guy Henry Williams I got to Chance to play with him on the 1990 good will game team he was a great dude and every time I would see him he was a joy to be around great personality my guy you will be missed #7 ! pic.twitter.com/4V2cOJfM9J
— Kenny Anderson (@chibbs_1) March 14, 2018
"R.I.P. to my guy Henry Williams … he was a great dude and every time I would see him he was a joy to be around great personality my guy you will be missed," Anderson said.
Former NBA star and 49ers head coach Mark Price also remembered WIlliams on social media.
It was a privilege to get to know Henry Williams! He was a great basketball player, but more importantly, he was a great husband, father, friend, and pastor! Henry, your legacy is rich, my brother, you will be missed! #WithTheLord pic.twitter.com/YVQai4X94u
— Mark Price (@Mark25Price) March 14, 2018
"It was a privilege to get to know Henry Williams!" Price said. "He was a great basketball player, but more importantly, he was a great husband, father, friend, and pastor! Henry, your legacy is rich, my brother, you will be missed!"
Williams is survived by his wife, Katrina, and children Kristen, Lauren and Brice.