Rap turns blind eye

Eric Williams racks up pts as he struggles to get away from the Millwaukee Bucks during the second...

Eric Williams racks up pts as he struggles to get away from the Millwaukee Bucks during the second Quarter at the ACC. (SUN/Veronica Henri)

DEAN MCNULTY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

When Raptors forward Eric Williams lines up today for the tip-off against the Golden State Warriors, it will be a special game -- as has every other game he has played in the NBA. It's special because Williams is all too aware how fortunate he is to not only be playing basketball at the NBA level, but to be playing at all.

Ten years ago during a routine practice drill with the Providence College Friars, Williams collapsed under the net after teammate Alston Crozier accidentally poked him hard in the left eye.

By all accounts, it should have been the end of his college career and the end of any hopes of making the pros for Toronto's newest Raptor.

The injury left Williams, who came to the team in the trade the sent Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets, with a permanent blind spot in the centre of the eye.

What saved his career, however, was that Williams lost none of the all-important peripheral vision so necessary to being an elite basketball player.

"Alston Crozier and I played together in Providence and he just accidentally hit me in the eye one day during practice," Williams said yesterday after an off-day shootaround at the Air Canada Centre.

While the damage would be lasting, Williams maintained the optimistic viewpoint that the injury wouldn't be a career-ender.

And he now says the accident and its after-effects rarely cross his mind, unless he is asked about it.

"It hasn't affected my game, at all," said Williams, who scored 21 points in Friday's overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at the ACC and is averaging 11.6 points per game this season. "I have been dealing with it since college.

"I don't even think about it anymore. It is just my central vision. My peripheral vision is fine."

Williams' attitude goes a long way into explaining how he has been able to achieve his sporting and life goals despite the injury.

"I just go out there and play basketball," he said. "As long as I still have the other eye, I'm cool."

Toronto marks Williams' sixth NBA team in his nine-year career and he said he hopes he has found a home where he can put down some roots. He said that the city has always been one of his favourite places to visit.

"I have been coming to Toronto for nine years," Williams said. "I pretty much understood the city before I was traded here.

"I just want to establish a good relationship with my new teammates. That's pretty much the only adjustment I have had to make."


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