Lots of people say they are born to play sports, but not everyone has the family history to back it up. Looking at the collective sports resumes of Jawad Williams’ family, it would be pretty easy to make the case that being out on the court truly is in his blood.
His mother played college basketball at Cleveland State University, Ohio. His father and older brother were both professional boxers and Golden Glove Champions. Williams’ older sister played basketball at Vanderbilt and was 11th overall pick of the American Basketball League (ABL) draft. His younger sister attended the University of Virginia and was named an Atlantic Coast Conference legend, and his youngest sister also played sports at a high level.
Clearly, Jawad Williams was steeped in sports from a very young age. He was surrounded by athletic excellence in his family and was drawn to the basketball court at a young age. Like many athletes of his generation, he was inspired by one of the all-time greats, Michael Jordan.
“I fell in love with the game early in life, probably when I was in second or third grade,” Williams recalls. “I loved watching Jordan play.”
Williams played high school basketball at St. Edward in Lakewood, Ohio, with a team consisting of a number of future college basketball greats. The team was led by Sam Clancy, who went on to USC; Steve Logan, who played at the University of Cincinnati; and Steve Lepore, who later played at Wake Forest. While at St. Edwards, Williams was named first team All-Ohio and was named to nu- merous All American teams. He was Gatorade Player of the Year for Ohio in 2001 and also played in the McDonald’s All-American Game in the same year.
“St. Edward is a great school. I didn’t play much my freshman year, but I was part of the team’s first state championship,” Williams says. “The school had a big-time program, but I gained most of my experience off the court.”
WORST TO FIRST
After his success in high school, Williams went to play basketball at the University of North Carolina. He began under the tenure of coach Matt Doherty, and later the team was led by coach Roy Williams During his time there, Williams saw his team experience both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
“My time at UNC was overall a great experience,” Williams says. “I played on the worst-ever UNC team my freshman year and then played for arguably one of the best NCAA teams ever in 2004-05.”
When Williams was a freshman, UNC bottomed out with a record of 8-20. Many would have taken that opportunity to look for somewhere else to play, but Williams saw it as a chance to be a part of bringing the UNC program back to glory.
“My proudest moment as an athlete was sticking around UNC after the 8-20 season,” he says. “It would have been easy for me to leave, but I wanted to get the program back to where it belonged, and I did that.”
Playing at the college level presented many lessons in the form of adversi- ty and challenge.
“In high school, it’s easy to dominate, but in college you face guys who may be just as big or just as talented as you are,” Williams says. “You have to put in the work every single day.”