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Facing re-trial, Williams joins Idaho team

NAMPA, Idaho -- Jayson Williams made his return to
professional basketball, scoring two points in limited action hours
after signing a contract with the Idaho Stampede of the Continental
Basketball Association.

The former NBA All-Star, who faces reckless manslaughter charges
related to a 2002 shooting at his New Jersey mansion, has said he
hopes to use the CBA as a springboard for his return to the NBA.

Williams, who turns 37 next month, quit professional basketball
in 2000 because of knee problems.

"Interested NBA teams want assurances that I am fully recovered
and can withstand the rigors of daily competition," Williams said
in a statement Wednesday. "The very competitive CBA will provide
me with this opportunity."

The 6-foot-10 forward did not start Wednesday's game against the
Yakima Sun Kings, but was the first man off the bench in both
halves of Idaho's 117-109 win, playing more than nine minutes. He
drew a polite cheer from the announced crowd of 2,367 when he first
took the floor about midway through the first quarter.

"I felt great. I really appreciated it. I was a little rusty,"
Williams said after the game. "I'm glad we got a win. These guys
look awesome."

Williams appeared to run without problems and was going out of
his way to be gracious, at one point profusely thanking a towel
girl. He exchanged handshakes and hugs with members of the Sun
Kings at halfcourt after the game, and was the last to leave the
autograph table.

Idaho coach Joe Wolf, who played against Williams in the
NBA, said Williams hadn't had a chance to practice with the team
before the game. "He hasn't run our sets. But he showed tremendous
energy. I expect a lot from him," Wolf said.

Williams, who made a name for himself in the NBA with his
rebounding, grabbed four rebounds Wednesday night, all defensive.

"Everybody needs a second chance," Stampede season ticket
holder Don Young said. "If he was a carpenter or a car salesman,
somebody would hire him. He plays basketball, this is what he
does."

Some fans sounded more skeptical of his motivations.

"He's probably got a few attorney's fees to pay," Bill Stroud said.

The Stampede signed Williams to improve their rebounding and
weren't deterred by his legal difficulties, said general manager
John Brunelle.

"The best-case scenario would be that he performs
really well, we win ball games, and the NBA makes him the third
call up from the Stampede this season," Brunelle said.

Williams was acquitted in April of aggravated manslaughter in
the Feb. 14, 2002, shooting death of a limousine driver, Costas
"Gus" Christofi. He convicted on four counts stemming from a
failed bid to conceal the shooting.

His retrial on a charge of reckless manslaughter is due to begin
in March.

Williams, who called the shooting an accident, won't be
sentenced on the four cover-up convictions until the remaining
charge is settled. Possible sentences run from probation to about
five years in prison. The reckless manslaughter charge carries a
possible 10-year sentence.

Williams played nine seasons for the New Jersey Nets and
Philadelphia 76ers. He averaged 10 or more rebounds per game in
his final four NBA seasons; his rebounding prowess earned him a
trip to the 1998 All-Star Game.