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Spingarn star rises to meet challenge

(Published March 13, 2000)


Staff Writer

When Anthony Williams took the court March 3, he wasnít wearing a gray suit or the trademark bow tie. Williams wasnít flanked by cabinet members and a press secretary and he didnít utter the word "accountability" the whole evening. In his green and gold uniform and his high tops, he just started warming up his jump shot with his other teammates. Thatís because, though not many people in the city realize it, Williams plays forward and center for the Spingarn Senior High School varsity basketball team.

Luckily for Spingarn, their Anthony Williams is not the same Anthony Williams voters chose as mayor a year and a half ago. Their Anthony Williams led the team to the DCIAA boys basketball championship by a score of 68-53 over defending champion Dunbar, scoring a game-high 20 points and bringing down 12 rebounds.

Williams sheepishly admits he does get teased because of his name.

"The coaches call me ĎMayorí Anthony Williams now," he said.

But with a season average of 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, and with Spingarn sitting atop the cityís high school basketball rankings, maybe he deserves the title.

The 17-year-old junior is already being courted by such basketball powerhouses as Georgetown, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, George Washington and Virginia Commonwealth universities. He said he is going to wait and see which other schools send letters of interest before deciding on a college.

And while Williams still has his eyes on the prize ó a shot at the pro leagues ó he also realizes that there is life after basketball and has decided he wants to study engineering at whichever school he chooses.

Williams the basketball player shares something else besides his name with Williams the mayor: time spent in foster care.

Louis Henderson recently took Williams into his care to remove him from a disruptive home situation. Henderson has some experience with foster children. A former foster child himself, Henderson founded and is president of the National Association of Former Foster Care Children of America.

Henderson said he knows that as talented as Williams is, actually making it to the National Basketball Association is a long shot for any kid. He tries to keep Williamsí life balanced so that basketball doesnít take over and push everything else out. Henderson said he is always after Williams to finish his homework or do his chores. Henderson also has Williams help him out at the association, taking care of some of the younger children.

"Heís a very caring person," Henderson said. "He looks at them like his brothers and sisters and they look at him like an older brother."

Henderson and Williams have a very comfortable relationship with each other that has been built over several years. Henderson began mentoring Williams when he was 13 years old. Williams cited Henderson as his main role model growing up and said he admires the fact that he worked hard at his jobs.

Henderson had equally high praise for Williams.

"Heís like a son and like a little brother to me at the same time," Henderson said.

Both acknowledged that living under the same roof the past few months has taken some adjustment.

Playing against Dunbar for this yearís DCIAA championship was one of those adjustments. After last yearís loss to Dunbar in the championship game, Williams said he took it very personally, that he felt heíd let the team down. This yearís game was going to be more than just a rematch; it was going to be vindication for Williams. He knew, though, that that sort of intensity would be hard to maintain if his mentor/foster dad was in the audience.

"I told him I didnít want him at the game," Williams said. "I didnít want to see him up in the audience."

Henderson laughed and said he sneaked into the press gallery to watch the game from there. He said he was surprised by the ferocity with which Williams played that night.

"I swear I have never seen him play with that much intensity, that much aggressiveness," Henderson said.

"I wanted to win so bad," Williams said, balling up his fists. "I didnít want to lose to them again."

With "Mayor" Williams ruling the court that night, there wasnít much chance of defeat.

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator