- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 26, 2006

When he took Verizon Center’s court Friday night, Connecticut guard Marcus Williams was surprised by what he didn’t see and didn’t hear.

No hand-made signs that read, “Where’s My Laptop?”

No chants from opposing fans asking the same question.

“First time all season,” Williams said.

Hours later, Williams led Connecticut with 26 points and eight assists in a 98-92 overtime win over Washington that earned the Huskies a berth in today’s regional final against George Mason.

Williams has become accustomed to hearing jeers and reading negative signs since his return in January. He sat out the Huskies’ first 11 games this season for his involvement in the theft of four laptop computers valued at $11,000. Williams is serving 18 months probation and has completed half of his 400 hours of community service.

“I wouldn’t say it’s been fun but I’ve met some friendly people and they embraced me and didn’t talk to me about my situation,” Williams said of the labor.

Part of the service was working with farm animals in Connecticut.

“That’s something I never would have done in Los Angeles,” he said with a laugh.

During his suspension, Williams couldn’t participate in any basketball activities with the Huskies. Coach Jim Calhoun drew criticism when he gave Williams his suspension but dismissed A.J. Price from the team for his involvement.

“Everybody deserves a second chance, especially when you make a bonehead mistake like I did,” said the 6-foot-3 junior, who averages 12.3 points and 8.5 assists.

Said Calhoun: “He’s an incredible kid who made a dumb, stupid mistake. … He paid a pretty good price for doing something stupid and he’ll pay a public price for a long time.”

The Huskies are 19-3 since Williams’ return and he has proved to be Connecticut’s most valuable player during the NCAA tournament. In three games, he has 67 points and 24 assists.

Against Washington, he was 6-for-13 from the field and made all 11 of his free throws. Williams’ scoring overcame his seven turnovers.

Williams’ only steal of the game came in the final 15 seconds when he intercepted a pass intended for Washington star Brandon Roy. Williams hit two free throws to give UConn a four-point lead.

Teammate Denham Brown said Williams has taken full advantage of his second chance.

“When it happened, I was like, ‘Why would he do something like that?’ because it could have ruined his future if the NCAA was strict on things like theft,” Brown said. “But he’s learned from that and taken advantage of it with the way he’s played this season.”

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