I am not sure if you heard the news, but one of PD’s very own, Grant Williams, was drafted this summer by the Boston Celtics! I say this with much sarcasm because it is hard to be a part of this community and have escaped the excitement and pride following NBA draft night 2019.
If you are one of the few who still draw a blank at the name, ask your favorite Charger gamer to name a player from their franchise in the newly release NBA 2K20 video game. I am sure they can fill you in. Need more proof of his fame? Our school community was fortunate enough to secure a block of seats for the November 7 CelticsHornets matchup at the Spectrum Center and within minutes of going live with the link via school-wide email, the first batch of tickets was gone. Yes, “Grant the Baller” or “The General,” as our Voice of the Chargers Lee Taylor fondly calls him, has given Chargers everywhere another reason to GO GREEN!
Grant Williams ’16 PD standout becomes the first alum selected in the men’s NBA draft enters a new stage of His Career by Neely Porter Gutierrez ’92 Getty Images 39 When Boston selected one of our own with the 22nd pick of the NBA draft that summer evening, I jumped up screaming, unable to contain my delight; I immediately picked up my phone to send a green cloverleaf emoji to Grant and then started texting with anyone and everyone I knew to celebrate the news. My screams of joy were replaced by a beaming smile and full heart as I started to receive texts in reply from friends and former students (some who were with Grant the moment the announcement was made, the second he found out his life would never be the same).
It’s unusual to have a dream like Grant’s come true, and even more rare to have people celebrate a person’s achievement with unadulterated elation - no jealousy, no resentment, just genuine happiness for another person. But that is Grant. He surrounds himself with true friends, people who push him, but keep him humble and grounded. He brings out the best in people by setting high expectations for himself as a role model and by helping others live up to their potential.
That’s why his former PD teammates are so happy to see him when they play their NBA 2K20 game. “We played together as goofy high school teammates and spent plenty of time playing 2K and creating franchises to beat each other,” says Lucas Chamberlain ’14. “Now he’s one of the players on that video game…haha. Doesn’t feel real honestly. He’ll always be the kid I grew up playing with.” Adds Matthew Lee ’15: “It’s crazy!... The best part is actually seeing him do moves on the game that I’ve actually seen him do in practice or games before.”
Grant’s former coach Brian Field ’94 was invited to watch Grant’s first two official NBA practices. “He is still a great communicator on the court (even as a rookie) and his effort is tremendous,” Field said. “He was coachable, picked up quickly on what was being introduced, and has really improved his three-point shooting. His coaches in Boston love him on the court and the way he has already gotten out into the community and become a great ambassador for the Celtics. He is still the same old Grant, smiling and goofy as can be.”
A few weeks post-draft, while chaperoning Senior Venture in Boston, a few teachers had the opportunity to catch up with Grant for lunch. When I first spotted him across the parking lot, he was climbing out of his small SUV with freshly tinted windows (completed just the day before) wearing a Tennessee shirt (his other alma mater) and his signature goofy grin.
Of course the first thing I did was ask him why he wasn’t wearing a Charger t-shirt. This made him smile even more: “Aww Mrs. G, I wore it yesterday.” As we walked around the block Grant Williams cont. Photo from the Charchives Boston Celtics Photo PROVIDENCE DAY Magazine to our lunch spot, Jack Whelan (Director of College Guidance, Boston native, and life-long Celtics fan) asked Grant about his move to Boston and how he was enjoying the area. Grant described his summer adventures and talked about all of the sudden changes in his life: being on his own, hiring an accountant, and setting up his first apartment with the help of his mom and dad. He also referenced the things that hadn’t changed: primarily his relationships with his friends and his obsession with the board game (yes, I said board game), Settlers of Catan. In fact, he had been researching diners in the area where people gather to play the game, and was planning on checking a few out himself.
As we walked and talked I could tell that although his life might be drastically different, Grant, the big kid with the signature grin, hadn’t really changed a bit. He was still the warm and unaffected boy I met when he was a young teenager and a student in my Algebra 1 class. Fast forward eight years and here he was, a little taller, walking the streets of Boston in his Vols t-shirt asking us all about our spouses and our kids (by name), and curious about recent happenings at PD.
During our meal he described his daily life, which in the off-season consists of a selfmanaged schedule of workouts, shooting practice, lifting, and a lot of down time. With many of his Celtic teammates out of town for the summer, he was looking forward to exploring his new hometown. We had an entertaining lunch filled with memories and laughter. He filled us in on behind the scenes NBA operations while we updated him on PD.
During our day, I asked him what the phrase #AlwaysACharger means to him. “It means the world to me - the fact that I have gone to both a university and a school that I will always be able to remember and where I made great relationships,” he said. “It’s the truth that when you go back to PD it’s like you never left so I look at #AlwaysACharger as a family environment – a culture.”
Later that afternoon, he joined a group of PD rising seniors for their free time in the city. Typically on Senior Venture, small groups of seniors and chaperones make a plan for the afternoon and are given passes for the T (Boston’s public transportation) to explore different parts of the city. With no hesitation, Grant hopped right into our group planning discussion, and when the kids decided that Fenway Park was our desired destination, he made a phone call. The next thing we knew we were on the way to a private tour of the oldest baseball stadium in the country, compliments of Grant Williams.
When the student group first saw Grant, many of them were reserved and distant. After all, these kids were only in eighth grade when he was a senior at PD. In their minds, he was a big-time college basketball star and on his way to making a name for himself in the league. Grant immediately alumni Photo courtesy of Neely Gutierrez 41 broke the ice by posing for photos and calling many of them by their first names. He asked them about how their older siblings were doing and recalled times when he had cheered for our current seniors on the court or sports field when they were in Middle School.
On the way to the ballpark, any shyness evaporated and by the time we arrived for our tour, Grant was talking to the students about school, their upcoming senior year, and how it seemed like yesterday that he was in their shoes. He talked to them about graduating early from Tennessee, the excitement of being drafted by such a historical NBA franchise, and his first purchase since signing his contract - a TV for his first apartment. As I listened in from the outside, I heard him mention the “importance of a good education” and “never take anything for granted.”
He also shared with them highlights from his time at PD. He referred to his favorite classes, AP Psychology and AP Government, and memories of dancing on stage as a part of Anything Goes, the Blumey-nominated musical in which he performed his senior year. Some of the kids remembered his brief solo in this show and his famous dance moves on the stage.
When we arrived at Fenway, the stadium’s promotion managers met us at the gate. It turns out, a few days prior to our day in Boston, Grant had thrown out the opening pitch at a Red Sox game and, in true Grant fashion, made friends-for-life with the event planners and sales team at Fenway. Both men kept raving about Grant - his warm nature, sincerity, and magnetic personality. After just a few days of knowing Grant, they had figured out what all of his teachers and coaches back in Charlotte and Knoxville already knew: Boston is going to be a great fit for our Grant, who thrives on relationships with people.
For more on Grant Williams, see coverage on CBS Sports, The Boston Globe, ESPN.com, The Athletic, The Charlotte Observer, USA Today, and many more.
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