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NWBA Feature: Jake Williams

By Hayden Audette, 11/15/23, 11:00AM CST


When he was 16 years old, Jake Williams was paralyzed after being hit by a car while riding his bike. While he was in the hospital after his injury, he was visited by Chris Okon, a wheelchair basketball player for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Okon encouraged Williams to try the sport, and got him in touch with a nearby coach. He would start playing wheelchair basketball shortly thereafter.

When Williams finished high school, he did not draw very much interest from collegiate programs. “I actually wasn’t very highly recruited out of high school, it came down to Southwest (Minnesota State) and Whitewater,” he said. Williams ended up attending both schools, first going to SMSU and then transferred to UW-Whitewater, where he is currently the head coach of the men’s wheelchair basketball program.

Despite picking up wheelchair basketball later than some other players, Williams quickly began to rack up accolades. He has won a total of two gold medals and two silver medals with Team USA, and an intercollegiate national championship with UW-Whitewater. Williams was also named to the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation All-World Team in 2018.

Williams shared that his number one goal going into the Parapan Am Games and Paris 2024 is to help defend Team USA’s crown, although he acknowledges that this is no easy feat. The Americans will have to win the Parapan Am Games this year in order to qualify for Paris, and although the US should be the favorites, Williams says regarding their competition that “you know no matter what you’re going to get their best game against you,” because as the favorites the target will be on their back. If the Americans are to stay on top, they will need to overcome the challenges from other strong nations that are seeking to knock them off their perch.