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May 1, 2012

Learning from a legend

As Troy Williams prepares to make his decision for either North Carolina or Kentucky in the near future---and long after he's chosen either the Tar Heels or Wildcats---he'll continue to be grateful for the advice and wisdom he's received throughout his recruitment from his AAU coach and uncle Boo Williams.

"It's a big role (my uncle has played in my recruitment)," Williams told Tar Heel Illustrated. "He's the guy that can get the inside scoop on things. He's been around it a long time, so he can help me with my decision a lot."

Boo Williams is nothing short of a legend in his hometown of Hampton.

A former star on one of the many local hoops powerhouses (Phoebus High) and a standout at St. Joseph's in the early 1980s who went on to play professionally in Europe for a time, Williams has long been a leader in the Hampton Roads African-American business community.

He's also one of the pioneers of the grassroots AAU basketball movement whose biggest men's event, the annual Boo Williams Invitational, has become one of the top showcases of amateur basketball in the United States---played in a 13 million dollar arena that has boosted the local economy and provided a lift to the community.

Williams has been involved in AAU for 30 years, so certainly when he talks about the process, his nephew listens.

"Definitely all the time (he gives me advice)," Troy said of Boo. "Every day he's always telling me that no matter what I'm doing, people are always going to have their eye on me and stuff. He says I've always got to be a leader on and off the court."

"He's just a real wise man. He's been around it all his life, so I know he knows what he's talking about."

Boo Williams was gracious enough to speak with us over the weekend at his premier event, and he admitted to us that it's been a hard thing for his nephew to make a final decision between the Tar Heels and Wildcats.

The difficulty of the decision was made even more evident Tuesday morning, when Williams announced that he was postponing making his announcement after initially saying he was committing Tuesday afternoon.

"Well, I tell you---it's hard (choosing between) North Carolina and Kentucky," Boo said. "We've been to Carolina twice and we've been to Kentucky twice. The fans are crazy. So it's just been crazy."

"I will be a little relief (when Troy announces)," he added.

Williams has sent a score of players to Chapel Hill just in the past half-decade---the list includes Ed Davis, Kendall Marshall, and James Michael McAdoo---but he's also known Coach Calipari for decades, so either way Troy goes, he'll be going to a place where his uncle feels comfortable with him being.

This one, of course, is a little different because Troy is family for Boo.

And having seen him grow up around his AAU teams, he's had unique perspective watching a small boy grow up into a 6-6 man who will soon be playing at the highest level of college basketball.

"He wants to do well. He puts the time in and he wants to become a good basketball player. He grew up traveling with us with the (AAU) basketball team, so he wants to become a good basketball player," Boo said of Troy.

Boo is well-known and highly respected throughout the AAU and college coaching community for his ethical approach to recruiting, and allowing his kids to make their own decisions without his own agenda forcing their thought processes.

What Boo has mostly done for his nephew in recruiting is serve as a mentor, while also serving as a facilitator and go-between with the coaches to help minimize the amount of correspondence.

"It's very hectic. Phone calls and letters every day," Williams said.

Boo has also kept the coaches in the loop on Troy's strengths and where he's been developing, and he gave some of that insight to us as well.

"He (Troy) takes instruction well, and the guy likes to work all the time. Yeah, he likes to work. He's a workaholic," Boo said. "You can't tell the way he's shooting the ball right now, but I think he's very athletic and he picks his spots. He takes his time and all that. Nobody in the country can rebound the ball offensively like Troy can rebound the ball."

"Growing up, he was a basketball guy. He wants to make plays. (And) he's an unselfish player. I don't really think he's reached his ceiling. I think he's going to get better," he added.

These are naturally important days in the lives of the Williams family as Troy prepares to make a life-changing decision.

Once the athletic wing forward does pull the trigger and make his final choice, he'll make that decision with confidence, knowing that he's made his decision with the invaluable assistance of his uncle.





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