"Scoot usually didn't wear his heart on his sleeve," said Whitsitt, who works for the Pacific 10 Conference in Walnut Creek. "But if you knew him, you knew he was in a lot of pain.
"There were conflicts with the coaches. He felt he should be playing more. And then the injuries came. Scoot was a talent in basketball that really went untapped."
Williams, attempting to draw one more basketball season from what was once a wellspring of promise, spent several hours a day in the training room during the latter part of his junior year. The recovery process included tedious sessions on a stationary bike, when he stared at the same concrete wall day after day, rigorously pumping to the beat of his own rehabilitation.
Eager to break away from the training room, Williams bought his first racing bike--a secondhand, $650 Italian Somec. The original owner threw in a pair of tattered cleats. Whitsitt, who set up the transaction, took Williams on his first ride through the hills of Palo Alto the same day.
"I was worn out," Williams said. "I think it was about a 20-mile ride. And what seemed like really large hills were just rollers."
Not long after that, on a warm Sunday afternoon, Williams and his girlfriend, Alicia Costantino, mounted their bikes for a lazy ride through Stanford's surrounding communities. They happened upon Mountain View and the rainbow of racers.
"I stayed there the whole day," Williams said. "On the way home, I remember having a real good ride because I was so hyper about it. I went home and shaved my legs. I was going to look the part."
All that was left was to become the part.
When his training regimen reached what he considered a competitive level, Williams registered for a race in San Jose on Memorial Day weekend, 1986. He bought his first hard-shell helmet the night before. As it turned out, he never really got going fast enough to use it.
Four miles into the race, he was dead tired. Six miles in, 36 miles from the finish line, he was lucky. The rear tire of his Somec found a piece of glass and blew out. Williams was done--and somewhat wiser for the experience.
"I was glad," he admitted with a typically wide smile. "I got off, picked up my tire and went back. I was really kinda happy.
"I knew after that I would have to start working."
Williams became a regular on the hills and paths in and around Palo Alto. He joined the Stanford Cycling Club and enlisted the help of experienced cyclists in the Bay Area. Upon graduation from Stanford in January, 1988, Williams put his degree in economics to good use by manning the cash register at a local bike shop.
Then, another race, this one at UC Irvine. And, another disaster.
With his friends and family in the crowd, Williams was buried again.
"I got dropped," he said flatly. "No flats, no excuses. I just got dropped. I was so embarrassed. I was coughing after the race. It was so hot and I was just winded. I vowed to myself at that point that I would never be that embarrassed again."
John Williams was obsessed.
A breakthrough came in the second race of the 1988 season. The evidence hangs over the Williams' family Mercedes in their two-car garage. The old Somec is suspended on two nails. Along the head tube, just above the front fork, a serpent-like gouge rakes to the underlying metal. Williams pointed to the scar and recalled a day in Sonoma.
"I was training hard, getting stronger," he said. "In that race I crashed, got up and finished 12th.
"Then I knew I could compete. I knew I could finish a race."
Top 10 finishes started to come, including a fifth in the California road racing championships in Lancaster in early June.
He had come a long way from the day he cheered a blown tire. The tears he shed in his Stanford bedroom were all but forgotten.
"John is real, real intense," Hodges said. "Almost too intense sometimes. It's sometimes like he's striving to be perfect.
"It usually takes quite a bit of time to develop these skills, but we'll have him for at least the next three years. I know he's a heck of a rider."
Williams said that he would officially sign with Team USA after this year's USCF Senior National and Road Criterium, held July 11-20 in Park City, Utah. Team USA provides a monthly stipend, coaching, mechanical support, equipment and clothing. His goal is a top 10 finish.
"I kind of thrive on the pain of it now," he said. "When I first started it, I quit when I hurt. I like the pain of it now. I like climbing and hurting. I enjoy hearing people suffering behind me. I enjoy that feeling."