When we reflect on our lives, the destination life takes us on is often a direct correlation to something or someone who impacted our past. William Arthur Ward once said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” For Georgetown basketball alumni and former NBA veteran Reggie Williams, his contribution to the Maryland/Washington, DC community is thanks to two inspiring individuals he’s known since childhood, Leon Howard and the late Edgar Lee Bell. While their compassion and dedication to the kids in the community was just second nature to them, the continued legacy of Leon and Edgar has been passed on to each kid they impacted at the Lafayette Recreational Community Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
Reggie’s story begins in Baltimore, Maryland where from the ages of 10 through 15, his hoop dreams would begin. Joining him on this journey would be future NBA star Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues. Edgar Lee Bell and Leon Howard played a big role in mentoring and coaching both Reggie and Muggsy. Reggie shared, “I’m very thankful for Edgar and Leon because everyone in the city respected those guys and knew they went above and beyond to help the kids in the community. Leon was the driving force in bringing us to the five-star camps, summer basketball camps, and other opportunities we may not have been in a position to afford or attend without them. They saw us as diamonds in the rough and genuinely believed in us. I’m forever grateful for their presence in my life and through the years it has inspired me to give back when I was in a position to fully dedicate my time and schedule to give 100% of energy to the kids in the community of Maryland.”
“I’m very thankful for Edgar and Leon because everyone in the city respected those guys and knew they went above and beyond to help the kids in the community.”
Reggie was a McDonald’s High School All-American while attending Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, MD. Under the guidance and leadership of his head coach, Bob Wade, success and being part of a winning culture was an important part of his early basketball pedigree. He had the pleasure of playing with fellow NBA players Muggsy Bogues, David Wingate, and the late Reggie Lewis. In his 1981–82 junior year, the team finished with a 29–0 regular season record. In his senior year, the team finished the regular season record of 31–0.
Williams storied collegiate career at Georgetown University playing for Basketball Hall of Famer, John Thompson was quite memorable. In 1984, Reggie and the Hoyas won an NCAA National Championship; he was named Big East Player of the Year in 1987; and in his senior year, he led the Big East Conference in scoring, rebounding, steals, and blocked shots, and was third in assists. Due to his exceptional season, Coach Thompson nicknamed the team “Reggie and the Miracles.”
His 10-year NBA career all began in 1987 where he was a first-round draft pick, selected 4th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. Reggie would eventually play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and the New Jersey Nets before retiring in 1997. While his NBA career was a special journey that he reflects on, life after basketball was the inevitable next chapter as he transitioned from active to officially retired from the game he loved so much.
Since retiring from the NBA in 1997, Reggie has been active in the local Maryland/Washington, DC community and coached three separate high school basketball programs, following in the footsteps of his high school coach, Bob Wade. While coaching was a natural fit for Reggie, there was an inner desire to make a bigger splash in the community by creating a sport and academic youth program with his wife, Kathy. Fast forward to 2015, the Shooting Stars Basketball Academy in Bowie, Maryland was founded by Reggie and his wife, Kathy. The program was a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that consisted of elementary children, grades 1 through 5. The academy conducted training for youth basketball, scholastic mentoring, and additional support for the children with their homework after school. During the course of the school year, the academy would conduct a six-week program to prepare and personally train the kids for a 3 on 3 March Madness-type tournament. When sitting down with Reggie, he shared, “Over the course of the time we ran the academy, we received all types of accolades, praise, and kudos from the teachers and parents. We’d hear feedback about the kid’s improvement in school and that included noticeable positive shifts in attitude, academics, and active engagement in the classroom. I have to give a huge thanks to my wife and the entire team for their dedication and support to the academy.”
Present day, Reggie and Kathy are running a new program called “Books and Basketball.” The program has been underway for less than a year and is geared toward inner-city children from charter schools located in Washington, DC. Reggie shared, “It feels great to lend a helping hand to tomorrow’s future leaders. It’s an honor to create this opportunity for the kids and infuse some of my life experience and words of wisdom into their lives. Growing up I wish I had a program like this that brought together mentoring and athletics all in one. I feel this is a large part of why I’m doing this today. The legacy I’m creating in the DC Metro area for the youth we are inspiring is what I live for. It brings me so much joy to have my wife, Kathy, by my side to give back through our nonprofit program.”
While sitting down with Reggie and reflecting on his current community impact, he couldn’t help but think about the people that impacted him. He wanted to thank or just share their words of wisdom that stayed with him throughout life. His list includes childhood friend and NBA veteran, Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, his legendary high school coach at Dunbar, Bob Wade; Basketball Hall of Famer and former Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson; and Basketball Hall of Famer and current head coach at SMU, Larry Brown.
“Muggsy charismatic personality and compassion for others dates back to our childhood. He was the life of the party. I do not know anyone that disliked Muggsy because his presence was magnetic. At 5’3”, you couldn’t tell him anything about his size; he had a big heart, exuded confidence, and earned the respect of his contemporaries on the hardwood. I’m proud of the ambassador he’s become for the game of basketball since he retired from the NBA. He’s an inspiration and admired by athletes that came after him. I know there’s a mutual admiration between Muggsy and current NBA star, Isaiah Thomas, for their ability to relate and play in a league of giants with no fear.
“My high school coach at Dunbar, Bob Wade, was a professional football athlete. He played for the Washington Redskins, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Denver Broncos. Wade learned his discipline by playing for the legendary NFL coach, the late Vince Lombardi. From the ages of 10–13, he looked after Muggsy and me. We’d practice with bricks to add resistance to our training, we ran endless sprints; I’m not gonna lie, we hated it at the time but when it was game time, we were like greyhounds. He knew what he was doing by pushing us. His words of wisdom and mantra were, ‘Work hard, put everything on the table, see where things are when you finish the job.’ From my perspective, there are no shortcuts to success. Bob passed on his knowledge, leadership and coaching legacy onto us at a young age. While it may not have dawned on us with a sense of clarity at that moment in time. The social responsibility to give back to the community I grew up in was crystal clear, as I thought about the next chapter in my life with my NBA career coming to a close.
“To my college coach and Basketball Hall of Famer, John Thompson, his mantra was ‘My way or the highway!’ As a former Georgetown Hoya, there was nothing in the middle. If guys had bad practices, he would holler, ‘we have visitors in the house.’ The explanation behind that message was, family stays together after dinner, visitors go home. When he’d say that, we knew that our time at Georgetown would not last forever. It was a wake-up call to the players and a constant reminder to not take each game and opportunity while in college for granted.
“The Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown was like the book of Carolina! He was always stressing the importance of making the extra pass, using your pivot foot, commitment to defense, and playing the game the right way. You can see a lot of these tendencies and execution in current Utah Jazz Head Coach Quin Snyder, who served as an assistant with Larry with the Clippers. It’s not a coincidence; Quin has the Jazz playing at an elite level and getting the maximum out of his players. Yes, he put in the work as a college coach and an assistant in the NBA and Developmental League (now G-League); you can sometimes see shades of influence in a coach’s style and leadership. There’s a little bit of Larry’s coaching legacy in Quin.”
“To my loving wife, Kathy, and my children, Reggie Jr., Riyan, Rikardo, Jazzmyne, and Nikara, thank you for being the greatest gifts from God that a father and husband can ever ask for.”
A quote that Reggie lives by, “Treat people the way you want to be treated; talk to people the way you want to be talked to; and most importantly, respect is earned not given.” Reggie went on to say, “That quote is timeless and provides a friendly reminder that we are human beings first and every other classification in life is secondary to that. Never underestimate the impact we create with our everyday actions and words.” For Reggie and Kathy Williams, their continued legacy is being passed on to tomorrow’s future leaders with their Books and Basketball Program. As someone that has personally been around Reggie and Kathy for 18-plus years, they are a couple built on faith and have a passion for their Maryland/Washington, DC, community. I look forward to seeing their program grow and I’m quite sure one day they’ll be reading about someone they personally touched and inspired in their lifetime.
“Treat people the way you want to be treated; talk to people the way you want to be talked to; and most importantly, respect is earned not given.”
The Books and Basketball program is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. They do accept donations, grants, supplies, and are open to new sponsors. In the near future, Reggie and Kathy are looking to create a travel component where they take the children out of state to show them a world beyond their neighborhood and school system. In addition to that, Reggie shared that a scholarship fund is a definite priority to reward students involved in their program to help offset the cost of higher education. To learn more about Books and Basketball, please email firstname.lastname@example.org (Follow Reggie on Instagram: @Reggiewill34) – Their official website and social channels are coming soon!
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