By Bert Borgmann, Colorado High School Activities Association, Retired
When Chuck Williams was drafted out of CU in 1968 to the defending world champion Philadelphia 76ers, it marked an ascension even Williams’ wildest dreams could not fathom. “I wasn’t looking for that. My playing career just morphed into what it was; there was no plan in place. But it was fun!” he said.
One of Colorado’s elite athletes, the East Denver graduate is now in the halls of fame for East High, CHSAA, CU and now, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, in addition to being a member of the Denver Public Schools’ all century teams in football and basketball. Of great importance to Williams was his pride as a Colorado athlete. Introductions were something special. But, he also knew one thing.
“I played with a lot of good players – players who played at the big-name schools. I used to think that I came from Colorado, and I can compete. Some of those players were better (than me), but I was better than most of the others,” he said, remembering his days as a professional basketball player.
Williams earned three letters in basketball, two in football and one in track & field. As a forward in basketball, he was named All-City three times, in football twice and was All-State twice in both sports in 1963 and 1964. He helped the East teams win two state titles – 1962 state football and 1964 basketball titles. He also played on the football and basketball teams that finished state runners-up.
“I thrived on competition. Football made me a better basketball player and I liked the contact that football taught,” Williams remembers. Following his East career, Williams moved on to the University of Colorado where he played guard for Sox Walseth, although CU football coach Eddie Crowder also made a run at him. A floor leader, Williams was known for his precision passing, slashing drives to the basket and his tenacious defense. He possessed exceptional speed and quickness. He suffered a serious knee injury his junior year, rebounding to have an exceptional senior season for the Buffs. He was second team all-Big 8 as a senior, a campaign where he averaged 18 points per game. His skills were suited for the fledgling ABA and he played eight professional seasons (1970-1978), spending time with multiple teams including the Pittsburgh Condors (ABA), the Denver Nuggets (ABA/NBA), the San Diego Conquistadors (ABA), the Kentucky Colonels (ABA), the Memphis Sounds (ABA), the Baltimore Claws (ABA), the Virginia Squires (ABA) and the Buffalo Braves (NBA).
“There is a great bond among the players from the ABA. We remember the struggles, the competition. It was a special time,” he said. Williams is in a unique position among Colorado athletes. His time in high school, college and the pros, was a rare achievement.
“It was a bit surreal to go from high school, college and play on the professional level in the same state,” Williams noted in his CU Hall of Fame biography. “You just don’t see that.”