Troy Williams: Uncut

  • 02/04/2013 9:10 pm in

092312During the process of writing an extended feature on 2013 Indiana commit Troy Williams, I talked to a number of members of his family. What follows is a sort of oral history on Williams.

Part 1: Early experience 

BOO WILLIAMS (TROY’S UNCLE): “Troy got into basketball at an early age, I’d say between eight and nine years old. He was tall, but he wasn’t that tall. He was unorthodox. He was the kind of kid that was always around basketball because he would travel with us. He traveled with the girls team. My mom traveled with the girls team. She was the, I don’t want to say team mom, but she did all the paperwork, she kept the books. She was like the top assistant. My mom’s been in basketball for years. I played at St. Joe’s and she was in basketball there, and then my brother played football at West Point, and my other sister coached at Auburn and played basketball at Penn State. He grew up with basketball. When we used to travel all summer, he used to travel with us. He was a ball boy and he did all that stuff.”

TROY WILLIAMS: “I was about five years old. My uncle made this one team for us, it was like an 8 and under, or 9 and under team. Most of the kids were like 5 and 6 and 7, and we were all playing for that. During that time though, I was also playing football and baseball, but I wasn’t really interested in those two by the time I got to fourth grade. I started focusing on basketball, but I wasn’t too serious about it. Then in middle school, I played for the middle school team my sixth and seventh grade team. I started to gain interest in it, started to watching the NBA and college teams more.”

BOO WILLIAMS: “We tried to get him to play football but he hated football.”

TROY WILLIAMS: “Every time before practice, I used to cry because I never wanted to go. I used to always complain and be like, ‘It’s too hot’ or ‘the equipment’s too heavy.’ I just never liked it.”

PATTY WILLIAMS (TROY’S MOTHER): “That boy, he cried every day going to practice. I promised him he did not have to play the following year. Well, while we were in Florida at one of the AAU tournaments, and I came back and Boo had signed him up for football again. And I told Boo, ‘You gonna come over here and take him to practice every day because I can’t listen to this boy crying about going to practice.’ Troy said he didn’t want to hit nobody and he didn’t want nobody hitting him.

“But once he did get into basketball, he always did like it. I remember he was four years old and he said, ‘Mommy, if I sleep with a basketball in the bed it’ll make me play better.’ I said, ‘OK.’ So he did this for a couple of years. He kept the basketball in the bed with him all night long. So when he got to about six years old, one night I said, ‘Look, let me take this basketball out this bed.’ And I took the basketball out of the bed. And Lord, that child came into my bedroom screaming about four o’clock in the morning, talking about where is his ball. So I guess it helped.”

MS. WILLIAMS (TROY’S GRANDMOTHER): “Every time we would go in the gym, he would come out with a basketball. I ended up with more basketballs here. I would tell him before we went to the gym, ‘Troy, don’t you pick up another basketball.’ Somehow, eventually another one would end up at the house when he came home.”

Part 2: Family

TROY WILLIAMS: “It’s a family sport, everybody played it, except for my mom. She wasn’t really into sports. She was a cheerleader, black girl.”

BOO WILLIAMS: “Family was big with him. He grew up with family. His mom was around, his mom went to all the games. My mom went to the games, me and my wife went to the games. Family was big. We’re a sports-oriented family, especially basketball.”

PATTY WILLIAMS: “Like any other family, we have our disagreements when it comes to Troy, but in the end it’s all about what’s right for Troy. I was happy that Boo is in Troy’s life. We have a close-knit family and they have a lot of input when it comes to Troy because they know more about this basketball in college than I do. I mainly stay behind his grades. I just went and checked his grades this morning and he’s doing great. He has six A’s and one B. I stay on him about his grades. They do the other part. But I know I’ve been watching basketball since Boo was playing in junior high school. Troy thinks I don’t know too much, but I know enough. When he’s on the court doing something he has no business doing, I can call him out on it.”

Part 3: Troy’s father 

PATTY WILLIAMS: “I haven’t seen his father since Troy was eight days old. Troy has never seen him. I know who he is and everything, but he’s never been a part of Troy’s life. I would have loved for him to be. He recently called me about two years ago, the day after Father’s Day, and wanted to know about his son. And I said, ‘What do you mean? He’s 16, what do you mean you wanna know about him?’ And I said, ‘You know what, Troy’s old enough now to decide what he wants to do.’ So I called Troy, and I said, ‘Look, son, I talked to your father. I said do you want his number, or do you want me to give him your number?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, what do you think I should do?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what. I’ll give him your number.’ So I gave him Troy’s number and they talked. Troy’s proud of where he’s gone and the things that he’s done, so he was telling him about it and where to go on the Internet and YouTube and where to see his highlight things at. When Troy made his decision to go to Indiana, I asked him, ‘Did you call your father, did you tell him?’ Troy said, ‘I don’t have anything to say to him. We have nothing to talk about.'”

TROY WILLIAMS: “He called me when I was in high school, between my sophomore and junior year. That’s when my name was on ESPN and all that. Somehow he contacted my mom and contacted me, but I was never into it. After 13, 14, 15 years and then you just want to call now because you see I got my name out there? I didn’t pay too much attention to it.”

YHOSEF WARE (TROY’S FATHER): “I was young, I was in the military, I was living in Virginia, we happened to connect. I ended up getting out, but I couldn’t find no job down there or nothin. I had to come back home. When I would go back to Virginia to visit, I never could find her again. I never had her number, her address or nothing. All the years that I’ve tried to get in touch with them, I finally got in touch with them. I’ve always tried, but with my financial circumstances, I had to leave.”

Part 4: Uncle Boo

TROY WILLIAMS: “My uncle was my father figure. He still is. I think he always will be. He grew me up, showed me how to mature and all that. He taught me new things and taught me right from wrong. He’s replaced my father with himself. When I go through mental stuff or I just have a question, I either go to him and then my Aunt Terri is a mature person, too.”

MS. WILLIAMS: “It was good for Boo too because it gave him a chance to learn about raising children. It was good to have him with him all the time because it had been just Boo in his basketball days. But everybody gathered around Troy to help him. When Terri was at Georgetown, he would go up there to the camp in the summer.”

Part 5: The big move 

TROY WILLIAMS: “My fifth grade year is when I started living with my grandmother. Growing up, me and my mother wasn’t the richest. My uncle wasn’t who he was just yet. My uncle had me move in with my grandmother and had me move closer to him so that my mother could get herself together and find a job and all that. It was really more of a money issue. I wasn’t always getting as much stuff as I have now like shoes and clothes. I was more of the quiet kid who didn’t really have much.”

PATTY WILLIAMS: “There was some things I had to get together in my life and get myself together, and that was the best thing for him. We stayed in contact every single day and I saw him every single day, but there was just some things in my life that I had to get together. And I did. But once that came about, there was no splitting him and his grandmother up. He would come and stay at my apartment sometimes. I’m only seven blocks from my mother’s house. There was just no getting him out of that house and moving him back in with me. There was no splitting those two up. Now they fight like cats and dogs, but one can’t do without the other.”

MS. WILLIAMS: “It was good because my kids had left. It was company.”

Part 6: The growth spurt

TROY WILLIAMS: “It was in between my middle school years when I started watching basketball and paying attention to it more. My favorite player was definitely Allen Iverson because he was a hometown hero for us. When I went to Phoebus, we played against his high school a lot. He’s also from Hampton. My part of Virginia always paid close attention to him and everybody looked up to him. Even when he went to the braids, everybody grew their braids out. They used to cut off one of their socks and wear it as a sleeve and everything.”

TROY WILLIAMS:  “I got to ninth grade, I played in the varsity, but I didn’t get that much playing time. Between my ninth and 10th grade year is when I started to blow up and my name started to get out there more, and I started to really like it.”

BOO WILLIAMS: “What helped Troy was he grew four or five inches.”

TROY WILLIAMS: “Between ninth grade and my sophomore year was when the big growth spurt happened and all that. My athleticism I got out of nowhere. That’s when I really started liking basketball and when I realized maybe this is something I want to do all my life.”

Part 7: Oak Hill

MS. WILLIAMS: “We could see his basketball was OK, but the classwork wasn’t going where we wanted it to go. Once you step into the next level, you have to be as competitive in class as you are on the basketball court. It just didn’t seem to be there. That’s when it was decided that he needed to go to Oak Hill and have the smaller class sizes instead of treating school like a play thing and just going there to play basketball every day. His grades were never bad because we didn’t allow that. He just didn’t spend as much time on his studies as he does now. He just played around a lot in the class. He didn’t take it serious.”

TROY WILLIAMS: “My uncle had said something to my mom and grandma about it my sophomore year of high school. It was just a thought, though. Then my junior year came, and the people that are closest to me they would talk to me about it and how much better I could be. They used to talk to coach [Steve] Smith and all.”

PATTY WILLIAMS: “It was more academics-wise than basketball because we saw too many players that left from Phoebus and ended up having to come back within the first year because they couldn’t keep up with their grades and basketball. At Phoebus, Troy was playing for a coach that had a son on the team, and it was kinda hard. Troy’s been through that all his life. It seemed like every team he went on, the coach had a son on the team. Troy didn’t get a chance to shine like he wanted to, like he should have. And then his grades weren’t up to par like they should be getting ready to go to college. He felt making C’s were great, he thought a C was good. No, it’s not. And he realized that when he got to Oak Hill. He really likes A’s now.”

TROY WILLIAMS: “At first, I didn’t want to go. I was like the hometown hero in Hampton and at my school. I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to leave all my friends and all my family. But after I thought about it and talked to my cousin about it, I started to find out more about the history like who came through here. I just decided to agree to disagree.”

PATTY WILLIAMS: “It was really hard on me, too, because I’ve watched Troy play his entire life. There wasn’t a game that I missed. For me not to be able to watch every game of his senior year, it took a lot out of me because I’m just used to being there. I’ve always wanted to be there just in case something happened. Now, it’s his senior year and I’m only seeing a few games.”

TROY WILLIAMS: “I love it now. Even though living at Oak Hill’s a struggle, I like it. It’s like maturing without being in college. You live on campus, you’ve got times we gotta be at practice. Coach Smith almost treats us like an NBA team. He’ll give us a specific time and expect us to be there.”

Part 8: Indiana [Note: Troy Williams committed to Indiana on Oct. 28, 2012.]

BOO WILLIAMS*: “The visit did it. To get a kid to Indiana in ACC country, I can’t believe it. That’s the first kid we’ve ever had in 30 years go to Indiana. It’s amazing.”

STEVE SMITH (TROY’S COACH AT OAK HILL)*: “He sat down with coach Crean, he watched them practice, the things that they discussed, he felt like he fit their style of play. I always tell my players that style of play and an opportunity to play are the two most important things. He feels like with coach Crean, he can develop and reach his potential. That’s what most players want. He sat down with me and said, ‘coach, I didn’t know the way they played, but I watched two practices, I feel like I fit their style of play.’ That was a big plus in his decision. He just felt like he fit in better than some of the other schools.”

TROY WILLIAMS**: “It’s like non-stop hype. I love it though. It means they’re really a basketball state and I like that.”

PATTY WILLIAMS: “I didn’t really know anything about them because when they came here to meet with the family, I have lupus, so I had a doctor’s appointment that morning and I didn’t make it. When he decided to go to Indiana, I was like, ‘I don’t know, I didn’t meet them.’ And then Boo started telling me about them and my mom started telling me about them, and then I talked to coach Kenny [Johnson] on the phone. I got a good feeling about him. … Indiana came up, I was like, ‘OK.’ I think it was a blessing. It was God-send because I didn’t want either one of those schools [North Carolina or Kentucky]. When I talked to coach Johnson, he told me when Troy came up there to the Indiana Hysteria, when Troy walked on the floor, the crowd got to chanting ‘Troy.’ And I asked Troy, ‘Troy, how did that make you feel?’ And he said, ‘Mom, I feel like a superstar.'”

* – In an interview with Inside the Hall’s Justin Albers on Oct. 28  

** – In a text message to Inside the Hall’s Justin Albers on Nov. 4

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