Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Williams To Finish What Legendary Dooley Started At Delone

You may remember Lawrence and Terrance Williams as two of the most transcendent athletes of their time during illustrious careers at Gettysburg High.

You may remember Lawrence Williams, a one-time NFL prospect out of Lehigh University, thriving as a cornerback at Gettysburgh High. You may remember Terrance Williams piloting a Jim Dooley-coached Gettysburg basketball team with a quick-release jumper and hawking on-the-ball defense.

The late and legendary Dooley helped shape both players into dependable double-duty players at both guard spots. Though scoring in a variety of ways and accelerating the transition attack, the Williams brothers were both known for the defensive harassment emblematic of Dooley's Gettysburg teams.

And while most understand Lawrence Williams' journey from homegrown talent to the man now vowing to keep Dooley's legacy alive at Delone Catholic, the first-year Squires head coach attributes his mental toughness to way earlier.

Rewind the clock to the late 1990s. It was a clear night in West Philadelphia. The electricity had gone off in the Williams brothers' house on 52nd and Larchwood, near Malcolm X Park.

The boys' mother, Anita Whaley had sent her then middle school-aged sons to call for help. Their neighbor, the sole operator of an in-house drug emporium, was nowhere to be found.

So, Terrance and Lawrence shuffled into a nearby public pay phone, as this was before the days of cell phones and social media. Suddenly a horde of grown men, all standing above 6-feet and muscle-bound, enveloped the two.

"That's my phone," one of the men shouted, ripping the phone set from Terrance's grasp. "You don't use it unless I say so."

Lawrence, who had earned street credit as a quick-hit scrapper, answered the man's cold stare without a trace of trepidation. He immediately rushed to his younger brother's defense.

The man then whipped out a revolver with a long skinny barrel, shoving the pistol directly into the young kids' faces.

An intense rush of panic engulfed the Williams brothers, as they recall.

"I almost peed myself," Lawrence Williams recalls with a chuckle.

The panic was temporary.

A voice instantly boomed through the fracas.

Whaley, the bulwark of the family, confronted the men in ferocious fashion. The armed man suddenly tucked the piece away, the Williams brothers said.

"If I ever see you giving my sons trouble again, you're going to have to deal with a lot more than just the cops," they recall Whaley yelling.

"You're going to have to deal with me coming back here and whipping all you're sorry asses."

Lawrence and Terrance, who've committed their lives to shaping at-risk youth, break into smiles when they recite this anecdote.

"From that point on," Lawrence said, "we never had problems on that block. Whenever those guys saw us, they asked us if we needed anything. Money, clothes, a ride to school."

"They knew we had a strong, strong woman raising us and trying to provide a better life for us. I don't think there is a stronger woman out there."

If it weren't for that courageous move, you may have never heard of Lawrence Williams, who fortified Lehigh's secondary during a dazzling 20-game win streak. You may have never heard of Terrance Williams, who has posted a 4-0 record as a professional boxer under Lincolnway coach Julio Alvarez.

The incidents that followed--the gangs, the shootouts that frequently jolted them out of sleep and the drug-addled neighborhoods--ultimately caused the family's exodus from Philadelphia's meanest, most unforgiving projects.

Whaley made the decision to uproot her sons in Gettysburg, where they have an immense family. They were reunited with their older cousin, William "Charles" Warren.

Warren, a cornerback at Dickinson College, is in the Adams County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

It was Warren who introduced his cousins to basketball when they spent their summers in Gettysburg as youngsters. The three would play in the grass-dotted of their grandmother's home. Using a regular sized ball, they shot on an apple crate rigged up on the clothesline that their grandmother, Mary Livingston, had set up.

There was some creative role playing in those games. A teenaged Warren and young Terrance and Lawrence simulated the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s.

"Charles would be (Michael) Jordan, Lawrence would be (Scottie) Pippen, and I would be (B.J.) Armstrong," recalls Terrance Williams, a deft long range shooter a la the less heralded Armstrong.

They managed to do this while tearing Livignston's backyard grass to shreds, with constant surges to the apple crate and plenty of skirmishes for loose balls.

"The games would get pretty physical at times," Terrance recalled.

"Chuck would be the Detroit Pistons, instantly bringing the toughness and ultra-physical defense that those 1980s 'Bad Boys' Pistons teams were known to enforce. It would turn into a 2-on-1, both of us versus Chuck. Then, we would go to Franklin Township and launch jumpers until our arms got tired. So, that's really where it all started.

Reunited with Warren, they had a role model and advisor on whom they leaned for advice and coaching. They had an equally important mentor in Dooley, whose motivational tactics helped mold them into coaches themselves.

Unrivaled Legacy

Dooley, a venerable and iconic head coach known for unbridled sideline energy, died of renal failure in the aftermath of a fight with aplastic anemia in the fall of 2013.

The Bronx-bred Dooley amassed 702 career wins, including 187 during his stay at Delone Catholic.

The system is funneled down to one of Dooley's favorite disciples.

"My excitement level is through the roof, especially since I'm stepping into a place where a man I loved for and cared for like a father coached," Lawrence said.

"I've personally been waiting for this opportunity to come for a long time. So, I feel like I'm as prepared as can be."

Williams was quick to acknowledge local coach Jeff Baer and Brian Schmoyer of Dover as two sources who helped ready him for this position. While Gettysburg varied as far as pace and offensive sets during Williams' day, the young head coach vows to continue Dooley's style of adjusting based on the scouting report.

Under Dooley, preparation and amplified pressure throughout the court were both bedrock staples.

"Defense will have to be our bread and butter," Lawrence explains.

Losing Dooley was not an easy process for Williams, who recalls breaking down several times after speaking with him and visiting him at Johns Hopkins hospital.

He still has the endless supply of memories.

There are memorable Saturday morning trips to Harrisburg for the Ujomi Summer League at Reservoir Park.

There are open gyms that lasted all day, Dooley coaching each and every last run in full throttle fashion. There are mentor-pupil conversations that Williams said prepared him for the rigors of life.

"My fondest memories of Coach Dooley would have to be the passion, energy, and the love for the game he always had," Williams said.

While Delone had a rough off-season with injuries to high-scoring guard Devon Moore and Jake Wiles, Williams said it won't hamper the team's progress.

The key is to build up the secondary players so that when both players return, they won't be relied on too heavily.

"There's no adversity with not having Devon or Jake," Williams opined.

"Don't get me wrong--they are both great players and will definitely be missed, but the show must go on. We have guys that are willing to step up and fill in, which is exactly what we need. I've experienced a lot in my life. So something like this, I personally wouldn't call it adversity. I have big shoulders."