Out of nowhere, Alan Williams has become arguably the best big man in college basketball.   I photographed Alan last week for the December 1st issue of Sports Illustrated. A UCSB senior and rising star he’s a gentle giant, power below the calm surface.  Like an ocean swell that rolls calmly until the shore demands action he’s an athlete gaining momentum: 2014 Big West Player of the Year and the top NCAA Division 1 rebounder while bringing over 21 points per game.

©kevin steele: Alan Williams Sports Illustrated shoot

Usually it’s the middle lands or East Coast of the USA that bring the basketball stars – to contrast Alan’s pacific place we set up on the beautiful beach bluffs of the UCSB campus.  I asked Alan the night before what he loved to listen to and so we had Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same” album on the portable speakers as our soundtrack.

Behind the scenes Scouting for Alan Williams Sports Illustrated shoot

Scouting the bluffs the day before I knew there were a few great options: up on the top of the bluffs looking out to sea and down below on the sand. The tide was a full high tide and there was a big swell with overhead set of waves.  More than once we got wet as an eager wave washed into us down on the sand – wet shoes, wet beach blanket, my clothes soaked from lying in the sand….

Above is the published spread in Sports Illustrated and a scouting shot, while below: a behind-the-scenes shot up on the bluffs and one of the outtakes.

Behind the scenes Alan Williams Sports Illustrated shootkevin steele with Alan Williams Sports Illustrated shoot