Growing Up ... Jawad Williams
Cavaliers’ reserve swingman, Jawad Williams, took the tough route to reach his NBA dream with his hometown team.
After winning a state championship with St. Ed’s and a national championship with North Carolina, Williams did stints overseas and with the D-League before finally working his way into the Wine and Gold rotation this season.
In today’s Growing Up, the local product talks about his best coach, growing up in a basketball family and the aftermath of his first dunk …
I have to be honest … I was a Chicago Bulls fan growing up. I mean, how could you not be with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen? That was a whole different ballgame.
I’ve always supported Cleveland sports teams … but I’ve never been a huge Browns or Indians fan. Basketball was always my thing, so I really didn’t pay too much attention to football or baseball.
I tried to play … baseball, but it was too boring. So I left that one alone. I tried soccer. Played one game, quit. I did a little bit of boxing, but I decided to stick with basketball.
I went to grade school … at St. Joseph’s Collinwood on 146th and St. Clair.
I first thought … I could make something of basketball, probably in the eighth grade. I remember my sixth grade year, I was kind of dominating guys my age. But I knew I could always get better. In seventh grade, I had a down year because I was playing against kids that were older than me. But by eighth grade, I started to realize I had a chance.
My older sister, Na’Sheema … had been through everything that I eventually went through. She played professional basketball, so when she encouraged me, I started taking the game more seriously.
My mom played at … Cleveland State and my sister played power forward at Vanderbilt and later in the ABL.
My sister and I had … some great battles. She used to beat me until I turned about 13 years old. Maybe 15. But she used to destroy me for a while.
My mom got out there … and played with us maybe once or twice. But she always had a million tips for us after a game.
She pretty much kept us … from scrapping too hard. But sometimes it was good for us – it made us that much better.
We’re probably one of the few families … where everyone has a state championship.
The one coach who probably had the biggest influence … was my AAU coach, Richard Smith. I played for “Cleveland Top Prospects,” which no longer exist. He helped me stay in the gym all the time. He went out of his way to always make sure I had a ride to the gym.
Sometimes I didn’t have access … to get to a gym and he would drive all the way from Bedford Heights and pick me up in Cleveland. We’d go to Cleveland State and work out for a few hours and he’d drop me back off.
I actually started playing AAU … in fourth grade.
I never faced … LeBron in AAU. He was always younger than me, so we never met up on the AAU circuit. The only time we played was a scrimmage between St. Ed’s and St. V’s. That was my junior year and, I think, his freshman year.
Nobody remembers … who actually won. It was one of those games where they stopped the clock all the time. So it really wasn’t like a chance to go head-to-head.
The only thing we really remember … from that day is me getting into it with his teammate, Sian Cotton. But that’s about it.
My first dunk … was in seventh grade at an AAU tournament at Baldwin-Wallace. I got a breakaway and got a one-handed leaner down. It felt great!
After that game was the first time … that I ever signed an autograph, too. It felt good. It was seventh grade. Not too many guys were doing that then.