Off the court: Shawne Williams

Off the Court:

(Photo by Jessica Hoffman)


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When asked about his favorite subject in high school, Shawne Williams didn’t hesitate to deliver his answer.

“Gym,” the 6-9 forward replied.

It’s no wonder. As a kid, Williams developed an early passion for anything involving athletics. For as long as he can remember, he recalls, his life revolved around sports as a young boy growing up in Memphis, Tenn.

“I basically played sports all the time,” said Williams, who along with his brother, was raised by his grandparents.

As the seasons changed, so did Shawne’s focus: football in the fall, baseball in the spring and basketball in the summer. “I played little league football, basketball and baseball for a long time,” Williams said.

Only when he reached high school did he hone in on one sport. “When I got to high school," he said, "the coach told me, ‘You have to pick one or the other. It’s time to dedicate yourself to one.’ ”

It was a tough choice, he said, because “everybody in my family played baseball.”

However, Williams, who described himself as kind of quiet as a kid, figured basketball would be his best bet because of his height advantage and his skills on the court. Watching the Chicago Bulls' star player also inspired him.

“Everybody was watching Michael Jordan,” he said.

During his high school years, he underwent another major transition. After spending several years at a Memphis high school, he moved to Laurinburg, N.C., to attend a prep school. The move helped him focus on the academics that would pave his way to college.

Williams described the transition — from a busy metropolitan area with a population of more than 1 million to a small town of 16,000 — as nothing short of major culture shock.

“It felt like I was in the middle of nowhere,” he said, “just going to school and playing basketball.”

Looking back, though, he’s able to see the advantages of the move. “It was good for me. I matured quicker away from home,” he said.

Tragically, Williams was forced to deal with another incident that also forced him to deal with the complexities of adulthood — the untimely death of his only brother who was killed, a victim of street violence.

“It made me a little stronger,” Williams said. “It made me want to do better and play even harder. I know he wanted me to go to the NBA. He always told me, ‘No matter what happens, I’m your No. 1 fan'."

From that point on, Williams said, he didn’t stray from his goal — doing whatever he could to improve his game.

His advice to youths considering a major goal in life — whether it’s basketball or any other career — is to work hard, stay focused and be willing to sacrifice. “If it’s a career in basketball, you have to eat basketball, sleep basketball, think basketball all day,” he said. “If you know what you want, you’ve got to do it 100 percent.”

One of his goals, besides winning an NBA championship ring, is to create a film about his life.

While he was in college, Williams and one of his friends started fooling around with video equipment and decided to tape his perspective on growing up in the inner city of Memphis. That video which they put on YouTube, started off as a “crazy idea,” he said. However, he now sees it as a seed for what he hopes to eventually develop into a full film.

“I just want to let people know what my life was like,” said Williams, who included his basketball career as well as his reaction to his brother’s death in the piece.

Until the day he shares his life on the big screen, Williams devotes his time to doing what he does best on the court and enjoying a few simple pleasures. He counts shopping at the top of his list of favorite things to do. He has a thing for urban designer denim, including Red Monkey and Evisu.

“Whenever I get time I like to shop,” he said. “I always see something different.”

With his busy schedule, Williams also appreciates just hanging out at his house, watching action movies, listening to his favorite hip-hop and R&B tunes, and playing sports and adventure video games.

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