By Five Boro Sports
HEMPSTEAD, L.I. – The Metro Classic is being played out like so many other of these All-Star games before it – little defense, showboating and wild shots are the norm. The Boros aren’t fairing too well, down 21 points to the Burbs midway through the second quarter.
Then, something – or, more precisely, someone – changes it all. Not with a slam, a fancy crossover or a series of rain-making 3-pointers. No, Chaz Williams, the Hofstra-bound point guard from Bishop Ford, sets the tone by diving for loose balls or sprinting back on defense and getting everyone on the court involved.
“I’m a point guard, so I’m the leader,” he says, staring intently. “I’m trying to lead my team, show them if I’m busting my behind they got to do the same thing.”
“He turned the game around,” adds Boros coach Elmer Anderson, who is an assistant at Boys & Girls.
The prize for the eventual win in overtime at the Island Garden is simply pride. No championship is on the line. Not even bragging rights. But Williams, who hails from the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, treats the showcase like it’s against his fiercest rivals. To him, losing is not an option.
“I play every game,” he says, “like its my last game. It’s just about working hard, no matter what situation I’m in.”
Williams, of course, isn’t just well versed in point-guard fundamentals. The fastest guard in the CHSAA, it’s nearly impossible to deny him the ball, because of his speed and strength. In the Metro Classic, he drops 34 points, many of them layups in transition when he beats the Burbs’ press with ease, flying by defenders before they can even turn around.
“He’s so quick,” Boros assistant coach Don Kent says, “he can start his own airline.”
Kent, however, is sure to point out Williams’ knowledge of the game as much as his raw skills. It is why at just 5-fot-9, Hofstra’s Tom Pecora came calling, and early, too. Kent has known Williams for some time, mostly as an adversary when McClancy meets Ford.
“He gave me a couple of gray hairs," the coach said.
Arguably the city’s best point guard almost gave the sport up years ago, after his father Calvin passed away from a brain tumor, when Williams was 9 years old. He turned his attention to football, he said, as a way to forget the pain. For two years he put down the basketball for pigskin, playing Pop Warner with the Brooklyn Skyhawks.
As his mother Diane’s urging, Williams came back to the sport. One day, out of nowhere, Diane said, he told her “mommy, I want to play in this tournament.”
“He came back twice as strong,” she said.
Williams has clearly not forgotten his father, who instilled in him the necessary work ethic to get where he is today. At the foul line, he points to the sky in homage.
“Whenever he can get into a gym, he will,” Diane said. “We have a hoop in the backyard and snow or sleet it doesn’t matter.”
Others have filled the void left by Calvin: his 23-year-old brother Kareen Moon and cousins Mustafa, Vameek and Vashawn Williams. His biggest fan and critic remains Diane, who attends almost every game and whom he calls his basketball mentor.
Diane, a former high-school basketball player at Port Richmond, was the one who implored him to improve his jump shot earlier in high school, who encouraged her son to meet his doubters head on and to listen and use their cynicisms against them.
Because of his height, Williams was overlooked when he first arrived at Ford. There are still those who think he’s too small to make it at Hofstra. In fact, in the latest issue of ESPN Rise Magazine, he was placed on New York City’s third team, an astounding oversight.
“I love it,” he says, still serious as ever, “because the best criticism is the worst criticism.”
The story now hangs in his bedroom, as motivation. It has already been put to good use – the clip got Williams primed for the Metro Classic. He knew there were others watching, maybe unsure of the dazzling Brooklyn guard. He had a point to prove.
“Every time I get in a situation like,” he says, “I try to take advantage of it.”