Fearless and true: Jaylin Williams stays loyal to Auburn, finishes on top - Auburn University Athletics (2024)

Fearless and true: Jaylin Williams stays loyal to Auburn, finishes on top - Auburn University Athletics (1)

Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers

By Greg Ostendorf

AUBURN, Ala. – Lately, Jaylin Williams has found himself in his apartment watching highlights of his old games on YouTube. Some of the games are from this year while other are from his early years, including one that stood out – an overtime loss to UConn in 2021. “That game was insane." It’s his way of reminiscing on what has been a historic career as he prepares to play his final game in Neville Arena on Saturday.

Last Saturday, Williams made history yet again. He played his 135th career game at Auburn and passed Frankie Sullivan for most games played in program history.

It’s been a season full of milestones for Williams who already surpassed 1,000 career points and became the winningest player in Auburn history with 109 victories and counting.

“Playing that many games is a blessing,” Williams said of breaking Sullivan’s record. “I have not had that many injuries in my career since I’ve been here. But I feel like I’m more proud of being the winningest player. In high school I didn’t really win that much. My team was good enough to win, but we didn’t always win. So, when I got here, being able to win just felt really good.

“I’ve always been looked over. I always thought I was a good player, but people didn’t see me at my full potential all the time. If you’re winning, people see you more and you get more exposed to who you are and how good of a player you are. Auburn has really helped with that.”

Williams still has one last chapter to write before the book closes on his Auburn career.

Fearless and true: Jaylin Williams stays loyal to Auburn, finishes on top - Auburn University Athletics (2)

That final chapter, the upcoming month of March, was nearly taken from Williams when he fell awkwardly while attempting a dunk against Kentucky last month. He injured his knee, and when it first happened, he was scared his Auburn career might be over.

But the MRI came back the next day, and it wasn’t as severe as initially feared. He was told his he wasn’t done just yet. He could still come back and play this season.

“For them to say that, it was just like breathing normal again,” Williams said.

The fifth-year senior missed one game but returned last week against Tennessee. He scored 12 points against the Volunteers and followed that with 10 and 15 points respectively in wins over Mississippi State and Missouri. He’s now scored 10 or more points in 19 of Auburn’s 30 games this season. His 12.9 points per game is the most he’s averaged in a season over the course of his career.

It’s really been a great experience. I can’t see myself anywhere except being here at Auburn.

Jaylin Williams

For Williams, it took longer to adjust to college basketball. A four-star recruit coming out of high school, he played in just 14 games as a freshman. However, as a sophom*ore, he started all 27 games and averaged 10.9 points per game. The next year, primed to raise his game to another level, Williams was moved to the bench with the arrival of future NBA lottery pick Jabari Smith at his position.

“I feel like that year was a very good year for me even coming off the bench,” Williams said. “That role was very important for our team. I don’t think many guys other than me would accept that role, so I embraced it. I took it as a learning experience.”

Williams returned to the starting lineup last year and once again averaged double figures with 11.2 points per game, but it wasn’t until this season when it all came together. Not only is he scoring at a higher clip than he ever has before, but he’s playing more efficiently too. He’s shooting 57.6 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from beyond the arc – both career highs.

“As a younger guy, I never realized why BP (Bruce Pearl) and the coaching staff were yelling at me,” Williams said. “‘I’m trying. Why are you yelling at me?’ But they know I could be better. They always knew I could be a really great player. I never saw that as a young guy, but now I see that, and they built up that confidence.

“That anger that I had when I was younger, I feel like it just exploded. Now I’m just like, ‘OK, it’s time to hoop. It’s time to show these guys what you can do, how you’ve been hooping your whole life.’

"This is the year that really clicked for me.”

In this new era of college basketball, many players in Williams’ position might have transferred. He only played seven minutes a game as a freshman. He was moved to the bench his junior year after starting every game as a sophom*ore.

Not Williams. He stuck it out because that’s who he is and that’s how he wants to be remembered when he leaves Auburn. A legacy of “being loyal to Auburn and the fans.”

“They believed in me once I got here on campus,” he said. “I had to prove myself, but once I got here, I wanted to prove to them I am loyal and I am sticking here. I committed here for a reason. I didn’t commit here to go somewhere else.

“There’s nothing wrong with (transferring). Guys go somewhere else and are more successful. Walker (Kessler) came here and became more successful. I just feel like that’s not me. Loyalty is key to me. I just hope that people understand that I was loyal and respectful, and I always tried to be there for the little ones. There was probably one game they could come watch us play. I was there to sign their autograph.

“I just think that’s me being me. I think it’s who God created me to be.”

Fearless and true: Jaylin Williams stays loyal to Auburn, finishes on top - Auburn University Athletics (6)

Loyalty is something Williams learned at a young age. Being raised by a single mother, Williams is going to be loyal to his mother, Shantel Williams, before anyone else. He’s also going to be loyal to Bruce Pearl because Pearl believed in him.

But his mother or “Mama” as he refers to her has always been No. 1.

The two haven’t talked much about the reality of Jaylin having just one game left in Neville Arena, but he believes his mother will be back even when he’s not suiting up for the Tigers.

“She’s going to always love Auburn,” Williams said. “She’s going to probably watch more games than I am. She’s probably still going to be at the games. She loves Auburn just as much as me. And my family, they buy all my hoodies and merch. Even my hometown, they will all travel here together and support me. I know they have my back. They know what I can do. I’m just trying to show the world what I can do.”

Williams has shown Auburn what he can do for the past five years. Like Williams, fans can always go back and watch old highlights once he’s gone. But with one home game left and one postseason run pending, enjoy getting to watch Jaylin Williams while you still can.

He has certainly enjoyed his time playing for Auburn and leaving his mark on the Plains.

“It’s really been a great experience,” Williams said. “I can’t see myself anywhere except being here at Auburn.”

Fearless and true: Jaylin Williams stays loyal to Auburn, finishes on top - Auburn University Athletics (7)

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