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September 22, 1997 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-09-22

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The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - September 22, 1997 - 38

Q&A: Jerome Williams



Piston Jerome Williams takes charge in his community

You hear the story everyday - a pro-
fessional athlete in trouble with the law.
Maybe it's marijuana in his trunk or
cocaine and strippers in a hotel room.
Whatever it may be, it happens far too
ten,and leaves an unfortunate
impression on today's youth. So when
an athlete comes along who doesn 't get
in trouble with the law and does posi-
tive work for the community and for the
children look up to him, that should
make the headlines - not the negative
allegations that we hear about daily.
The Detroit Pistons have such posi-
tive role models, and they're not just
Grant Hill and Joe Dumars. It's Jerome
,lliams, the Pistons forward who fin-
lied his rookie season last year A
graduate of Georgetown, Williams has
used his degree in sociology to work
with metro Detroit youth and lend a
hand to the community.
_The Daily's Jordan Field recently sat
down with Williams to talk about his
experience at Georgetown, living on his
own and helping the community.
-Daily: You do a lot of work in the
mmunity, volunteering your time to
hildren and different organizations.
Why is that so important to you?
-Williams: Working in the communi-
ty is part of what I studied in college. I
was a sociology major, and while at
Georgetown, I interned at the commu-
iity relations commission where you do
a, lot of community work. So once I
graduated and got in the NBA, I had a
lot of time on my hands in the off sea-
'son, so I put my degree to work, basi-
*1Iy. I learned that the little things you
can do go a long way with the commu-
nity. I used to run my own basketball
camp and have started some mentor
programs in the inner city of Detroit
where the youth of the city can see a
professional 'athlete making good with
his time and also send a message that
there are other things than sports that
you can do in life to be successful. We
, ought all kinds of business profes-
onals out to talk to the children and
dhow the kids that it's one thing to want
to be a professional athlete, but it's good
to have other jobs and you can accom-
plish anything and be successful. I real-
ly think we got that message through to
the kids, and we had tutors come down
that helped them with homework. All of
these people were volunteers from
Detroit, so the city of Detroit helped me
help the youths. This year, along with
y brother, Johnny, we plan on doing
wv mentor programs, and I hope to
make them both even bigger than last
D: I know you come from a very big
family, something like 55 grandchil-
dren. How has that affected your life,
and now in the NBA?
W: Yeah, now it's about up to 65, and
still growing. Having that big of a fam-
ily like that, makes it tough in the NBA,
*ways traveling and away from every-

one. I'm from the metropolitan area of
Washington, D.C., so r m pretty far
from home here. It gets kiind of lonely at
times. At first it was pret ty hard being
so far away, because even in college I
was at Georgetown, and that's pretty
close to home. Now I'm ly tnyself, and
it's rough. At school, I was on my own,
but home was still just down the street.
I always had the cushion there, knowing
my family was close. I liave a strong
family background.
D: If you weren't playing basketball
now for a*living, what 41o you think
you'd be doing now?
W: Probably working in the commu-
nity trying to help out, b t only part
time. I doubt I could live ff that. After
graduation I had a job with an account-
ing firm, because I didn't Ii:now if I'd be
drafted or not, and I planned on going
back to school to get all accounting
degree if I wasn't. That was my next
D: Today so
many athletes mis-
use their position
in the public eye,
but you're given so
much back to the
community, why
do you think so '
many young ath-
letes find trouble
so easily?
W: Basically it's
just different
strokes for differ-
ent folks. It's easy
to get caught up in
things. One thing
about the NBA, is
that it brings a lot of attenti on to your-
self, and sometimes I think some play-
ers don't really take that inti' considera-
tion, that at all times youi are being
watched. The TV cameras tare on, and
the news is going to follow you. It does-
n't matter that it's the summner and it's
the off' season, because re;I lly the off
season is still in season as far as the
media is concerned. If therf, is a prob-
lem, this is the best time feir the media
to find out about, because aren't any
games to report on. You better watch
out, because if there is a gime tomor-
row then what you did today can be for-
gotten about, but in the off season, this
is the only thing to talk about.
D: During your rookie season last
year, you wrote a weekly coilumn about
what was happening throughout the
season for The Detroit News. What was
your experience as a journalist?
W: It was pretty nice, because if
there was ever a story about me or I was
misquoted, I could always come back
and tell the truth. I'm just kidding; it
was actually a good experience,
because you have a lot of power writing
for a newspaper. I got to know a little bit
about the job, and learn some things
about what journalists go through. I

would write a nice long article, hand it
in to my editor and the next day in the
paper it was all chopped up. I was like
'hey, that was the most important part
of the article, and you cut it out!' Man,
it was a lot of fun writing those articles,
but it sure was frustrating seeing half of
what I had written in the paper,
D: What has your experience been as
an athlete dealing with the media?
There is such a negative connotation
now toward the media especially after
the Princess Diana ordeal. How has the
media treated you?
W: I haven't had any problems at all.
I look at it like this, if there is news out
there, then the media is going to report
it because that is their job. I listen to
people talk about Princess Diana, how
pictures were so hard to get of her. I feel
that if pictures of her were easy to
obtain, then there wouldn't be such a
demand for them. It was so hard to get
a picture of her, so
that's why people
wanted them so
bad. She wasn't
one to really take
the photographers
and enjoy the
attenti6n and say
'OK, take my pic-
ture.' I'm not say-
ing that that is
good or bad, just
that if photographs
of her were more
accessible, there
wouldn't have
been as great a
demand for them.
But if there is the
demand, then photographers will crawl
scratch and fight for them, and they did.
If someone wants to take a picture of
me then go ahead, it's only a picture.
D: After high school you grew
almost 7 inches and you attended a
smaller school for two years before
transferring to Georgetown. When did
you finally realize that playing in the
NBA was a realistic dream?
W: Not until I was drafted. I had a
job waiting on me, and I wasn't going to
mess around if I wasn't drafted. I'm in
the NBA and there is nothing wrong
with that, but had I not been drafted, I
wasn't about to sit around. I wasn't
going to be one of those guys sitting in
some gym talking about what could
have or should have happened. I know
some guys that hang on to the NBA
dreams for 10 or I1 years before they
give it up, but sitting and talking about
it isn't going to put clothes on my back
or food in my belly. I wasn't going to sit
around and hope because a dream can
only go so far.
D: You always wear both of your
socks pulled up all of the way. Where
did that come from and when did that
W: I played a lot of playground ball

growing up and it started there. I pulled
up my socks then because it was kind of
a code that I had skills. You can't pull up
your socks that high if you aren't good.
If you aren't good and you're getting
worked over on the court then people
are going to let you know that 1) they
are beating you and 2) you look stupid
with your socks pulled up. But if you
are good enough, no one can say any-
thing to you. I started it then, and it just
stuck. I guess the code works in the
NBA too.
D: The University of Michigan has a
lot of problems within the basketball
program with boosters and other accu-
sations. But this problem exists all over
the country. What was your experience
in college with outside people trying to
contact you as a student athlete?
W: It's one of these things where as a
student-athlete you aren't allowed to
work. So you have no money income,
and then you are put in a situation
where this person wants to give you
things. That is a tough decision. U-M is
a much bigger campus and has many
more alumni than Georgetown, so that
just makes it worse. For me, I just went
home with my parents and ate and they
gave me money, because I wasn't about
to get involved with that chaos.
D: You stayed at Georgetown and
graduated, and you earned your degree.
How do you feel about so many young
athletes today either skipping college or
leaving after just a year or two?
W: Well, people go to college for
different reasons. Some go to get their
degree like I did, and others go as a
stepping stone to the NBA. It all
depends on what kind of goals you
have and what kind of goals you set. If
you feel you have the opportunity to go
to the NBA and make that leap and
that is what you want, then go for it.
Not everybody goes to college to get
their degree, some people only want to
play in the NBA, so when the opportu-
nity presents itself, whenever that may
be, they take it and that's what they
want. That wasn't my goal, but for
some it is.
D: You have a lot of former team-
mates from Georgetown now in the
NBA with you. How are your relation-
ships with them, especially with your
Pistons teammate Don Reid?
W: Most people don't know this,
but the main reason I went to
Georgetown was because of Don
Reid. We played a lot on the play-
ground, and became friends. We used
to go down to the gym and play bas-
ketball, so when I was drafted by the
Pistons I was so happy. I stayed up all
night. I called Don right away, and I
remember the phone line was busy,
but I got through, and I was so happy,
jumping around and going crazy. He
and I are good friends. It's nice to see
the other guys, but I don't get to talk
with them too often.

The Bronx Bomber
J~ \ ! AM f"
icture. for a moment, inglish Prof. Ralph Williams storming into
Tom Goss's office demanding that the new athletic director radically
reform the disciplinary program of the athletic department.
"To grant or not to grant convicted felons scholarship at this University."
the ridiculously out-of-place Williams might say,"is the question."
As Goss shakes his head in disbelief wondering what the heck he got
himself into with this job, he is at least able to relate to what his contempo-k
rary at Fresno State, Allen Bohl, is thinking right now.
Last week, Fresno State professor John Shields, asking "Have we no
shame?" demanded the California state university impose a code of conduct
for the school's athletes.
His ultimatum comes in light of Fresno State's recruitment of a convicted.
spouse abuser, a pair of accusations that two other athletes beat their girt-
friends, a case still pending where two Fresno basketball players are
charged with battery of another student and, to top it all off, while the
men's basketball program is in the midst of an investigation of possible.
point-shaving, the most heinous crime as far as sports on the field is con-
Nothing as far as enacting such a code has happened yet. The proposal
that Shields laid out before the university's Academic Senate hinges upon
two demands: a new code of conduct for players and consideration of
"good character" when athletes are recruited. There is also a provision that
if such a measure is not instituted, the faculty will declare "no confidence"
in the university's administration and athletic department. The faculty will
vote on the resolution next week.
According to Shields, such a resolution became necessary because
Fresno State administrators and coaches have adopted an "overly tolerant'
attitude toward student-athlete antisocial behavior and criminal conduct."
This proposal is by far the most rash stance taken in an era when too
many big-time student-athletes conduct themselves in a manner that shows
little regard for the law, whether that law be laid down by the government'
or the educational institution.
Suspensions, whether they be for part of a game, a whole game or a sea-
son, have not served as a deterrent to misconduct. Revocations of scholar
ships, the apparent next-most-stringent measure, have also fallen by the
wayside as a scare tactic. Seemingly continuous internal investigations con-'
ducted by all schools once a hint of impropriety arises obviously have not
remedied this problem by any means.
And there is a simple reason why these measures have been ineffectiv'e.
University administrators, whether it be a public relations maneuver or o't,
keep pushing for the elimination of the double-standard that exists for stu-
dent-athletes with regard to discipline. Creating a code of conduct for stu-
dent-athletes only makes this double-standard more omnipresent because it:
compromises the efforts university administrations have made to suppress,
the double-standard.
if Shields thinks that his code is going to right the ship at Fresno State,
he's dead wrong. What he has identified as problems in his school's athletic
department are not unique to Fresno State, nor are they unique to intercol
legiate athletics in general. Spousal abuse is one of the most pressing issues
in American society today.
If all it took to rid this country of such gargantuan social ills was some
code of conduct, don't you think such a code would be legislated by now?'
If there is one party that should be creating a code of conduct, it is the
Fresno State athletic department. For itself.
The sure-fire way of avoiding any such public relations fiascoes like the
ones it faces right now, is to not affiliate itself with shady characters with'.
any criminal past or links to unfavorable characters.
As far as the misconduct surrounding the men's basketball team, Fresno
State has no one to blame but itself. The athletic department should never'^

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