Hard work, growth spurt led Williams to NBA

Junkyard Dog in Charlottetown this week for NBA all-star event

Jason Malloy jmalloy@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 4, 2016

Jerome (Junkyard Dog) Williams, centre, took part in the Nationwide NBA All-Star Program in St. John's, N.L., in November. Zachary Hurley, second from left, won the three-point competition and Aeilee Toulany, second from right, won the skills competition. They were joined by members of the Chicago Luvabulls and Franklin, the Philadelphia 76ers mascot.

©Submitted photo

Jerome Williams was a high school point guard who liked to get others involved before a seven-inch growth spurt in college changed his game.

"That's when my game went to another level," Williams told The Guardian during a recent interview. "What used to be a finger roll layup turned into tomahawk dunks."

Williams was not recruited as a six-foot-three point guard at Magruder High School in Maryland. He paid his own way to attend Montgomery College in his home state for two years before being noticed during a pickup game in Washington, D.C.

He played two seasons for the Georgetown Hoyas before being drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. A trade brought him north of the border to the Toronto Raptors and he quickly became a fan favourite for his scrappy play, energy and work ethic.

With the NBA all-star game taking place in Toronto on Feb. 14 - the first time it's been held outside of the United States - the NBA is holding events across the country. Williams is one of the former NBA players taking part in the tour. He will be in Charlottetown this weekend.

There will be a kidsfest Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Chi Wan Young Sports Centre at UPEI.

There will be an all-star challenge Saturday at UPEI where anyone over the age of 14 can take part in a skills challenge, three-point or dunk competition. Participants will be competing for an all-expense paid trip to Toronto to play for the national title.

Williams never took part in such a competition growing up, but enjoys watching all three events.

"You always enjoy the slam dunk contest," he said, "but I have to admit, over the years, when guys get hot from that three-point line, that's really fun to watch."

Williams, affectionately known as Junkyard Dog during his Raptors days, was in St. John's, N.L., for a tour stop on Nov. 22.

"We've had so much fun," he said. "I just have a tremendous time reconnecting with my Dawg Pound fans as well as NBA fans all over Canada and encouraging them to check out all-star weekend because it really is a once-in-a-lifetime event."

Williams retired in 2005. Now 42 years old, he has served as an NBA cares community ambassador and coached at Findlay Prep, where he saw future NBAers Cory Joseph, Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson.


All-star event

The Nationwide NBA All-Star Program

What - Beginning Nov. 19 the program is stopping in 14 Canadian cities in the 10 provinces. It includes a kidsfest and an all-star skills competition.

BMO NBA All-Star Kidsfest

What - Basketball clinics and NBA Cares activities such as dance classes led by NBA dancers. There is also a youth art program and a chance for fans to try their hand as a junior reporter.

When - Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Where - Chi Wan Young Sports Centre at UPEI.

Who - Kids aged eight to 13 can show up and register on site.

Bell NBA All-Star Challenge presented by Air Miles

What - A three-point shooting, skills challenge or dunk competition.

When - Saturday. The qualifier is from noon to 3 p.m. with the final taking place from 6 to 10 p.m.

Where - Chi Wan Young Sports Centre at UPEI.

Who - Anyone 14 and older.

More information - Online at www.NBA.com/AllStarEvents