At first glance, Jeremiah Williams’ basketball pathway seems pretty normal: a home-grown ball player turned assistant college coach from East Kentwood who ended up at Olivet College, just over an hour from his hometown. However, Williams’ path to Olivet is a journey that started from rock bottom and took him to places that many young ball players dream to be.
Williams was born to Vicky Calwell on Feb. 21, 1993 in Grand Rapids. He grew up in Grand Rapids alongside three siblings, Lyric, Lorenzo and Mahoga- ny, and was raised by his mother alone.
“Growing up I was a bit of a wild child. I ran the streets getting into all kinds of trouble, pretty much doing whatever,” said Williams. “We didn’t have much; my mom raised me on her own and I grew up in poverty. My dad was never a part of the picture.”
Growing up Williams struggled in school and had a hard time keeping on the straight path, unking out of school his freshman and sophomore year. He actually didn’t start to play basketball until his sophomore year when his friend’s dad started an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) team and thought Jeremiah should give it a shot.
“I was terrible. I was athletic and I could play a little defense, but I couldn’t score the ball to save my life...My teammates would make fun of me all the time about how terrible I was on offense that’s the thing that really pushed me to take basketball serious. I told myself that if I was going to do this, I was going to be good.”
Following two years of work, he became a local sensation. Williams would go on to make an impact on the basketball court for East Kentwood. Along with leading the Falcons to being ranked 12th in the MHSAA (Michigan High School Athletic Association) postseason rankings, he also earned honors as all-conference, all-area and all-state his senior season. His secret? Skipping the first half of his school days his senior year to hit the gym with his most loyal rebounder, his mom. “I wouldn’t suggest this to anyone,” Williams said with a laugh, “and I’m not too sure how I ended up passing any of my classes that year, but I pretty much was doing two-a-days all year leading up to my senior season.”
After graduation, he attended Vincennes University in Indiana for two seasons. At Vincennes, the Trailblazers were a combined 68-7 and tacked on a NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) final four appearance as well.
Following his stint at Vincennes, Williams headed to the East Coast to pursue his dreams of playing Divi-sion One basketball at the Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.
“Growing up, I would go to parent teacher conferences and the teachers would tell my mom straight up that I might not graduate, and that there was no chance that I would ever attend college. Now here I am all these years later playing Division One basketball and earning two degrees from one of the most prestigious schools in the country. That was the ultimate feeling for me,” Williams said.
After his college career came to an end Williams played for Raptors 905, the Toronto Raptors’ D League affiliate, and was coached by NBA legend Jerry Stackhouse. After a couple short months with the team he was waived, and headed for The Wellington Basketball Club in Canada. It was here where Williams became a coach for the first time, well, kind of.
“When I showed up, the coach was red and I got thrown into the mix as not only the point guard, but the coach as well.” Williams went on to explain how frustrating it was having to coach players that would constantly arrive late to practices and strug- gled to buy in to the process and life of being a pro athlete.
Williams began to realize the main flaw with the way he, and those around him, had been coached their entire lives. “A lot of coaches don’t coach to develop players, they coach to win. It’s easy to focus on the short term and on winning, but what happens after that winning? Too many coaches focus only on basketball, and not on developing their players both on and o the court,” said Williams. “I want to be able to bring a new way of coaching. There is more to life than just winning basketball games. I want to coach players on their character and help them focus on being a better overall person, as well as a better ball player.”
After his season spent in Canada, coaching was something that lingered in Williams’ mind constantly. All it took for him to get into coaching was a phone call from Olivet coach Steve Ernst and he was on board. Williams joined the sta last season at Olivet, and was successful in his rst season as an assistant coach. Last year the Comets won a MIAA (Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association) title under Ernst and Williams, and he is hoping to add one more to his resume this year.