I was introduced to basketball around age 3 or 4 by my uncle, the late Carl Kent Sr. aka "The Colonel" in Pleasentville, NJ where he is still a legend, both as a player and even more notably, a coach. To me at the time it was just another game that would keep a young kid busy and active but what it would become was much more.
As a kid I played in the P.A.L. (Police Athletic League) before moving to Virginia and playing in middle school, high school, and a few years in jr. college. Prior to playing juco, a former police officer named James Gregory started a youth league in Charlotte Country where I graduated high school. He gathered up a few of my peers and myself to help coach this league as it got started. That was between 2002-2003 and was my first introduction into coaching.
Some years passed where I took a big leap into the music industry but no matter what, the basketball never stopped bouncing. My friends and family would play in leagues, out of state tournaments, and pick up games. We all grew up very competitive and played these games harder than when we played organized ball. My brother Fayid Williams, who is the best individual player of my siblings, who also played some professional ball, would almost always end up on opposite teams as me. In hindsight, I think that's were my competitiveness grew and shaped into what it is now.
In 2009, I returned to the high school I graduated from to coach the Jr. Varsity team and assist Kevin Bowman with the varsity team for 4 years. My first year the JV team won the district championship which was the furtherest the JV team would play and our varsity team ended up runner's up in the district finals. I learned so much during that time and thankfully, am still connected to some of those young men today.
After 4 years at Randolph Henry High school, I moved to North Carolina where my uncle, Coach Carl Kent was now living. He told me the brand of high school basketball in NC reminded him of when he was coming up and that I would benefit from coaching there. Thankfully, Millbrook High School rolled the dice on me and made me an assistant with this historic and prestigious program under Scott McInnes and Chris Davis. Scott McInnes who is currently one of the winningest high school coaches in NC history has since retired and now Chris Davis is the head man.
In my years at Millbrook, the team has been ranked in the top 20 in the country, made several deep playoff runs, completed an undefeated regular season, and has graduated numerous student-athletes who have gone on to play at all levels of college, professionally overseas, and most notably Chris Clemons who signed with the Houston Rockets (NBA) in 2019.
As I am writing this blog our team currently sits at a perfect 8-0. Even in this odd pandemic season where there is no crowd, the bench is spaced out, the players wear masks, and other regulations are put in place for safety, the one thing that remains consistent is the culture. It's the same culture I remember seeing when my uncle took me into the gym as a kid in Jersey. The same culture I remember feeling as a player. The same exact culture that was a part of that JV championship team in Virginia, and every pick up game or adult league I ever played in. It's the culture of the game that was never absent.
The shorts went from being short with stripes on top of the tube socks, to being baggy with all black socks, and now back short again with other accessories being worn. Fashion is a big part of the culture. However, the most important part of the culture is what it taught us all and how it applies to life. How you win some and you lose some but what you do to prepare affects those outcomes. How your work ethic and effort beats talent when talent doesn't work hard enough. How to function as a part of a team and put a greater cause above your own selfish agendas while still benefiting as an individual.
I truly believe there is no sport greater than basketball. The way the world mourns Kobe, I mourn my uncle Carl Kent who isn't here to see his nephew's successes even though he's such a large part of it all. Thank you Coach Colonel and every one mentioned and not mentioned in this blog for your part in the culture.