Feb. 9, 2007
By Nate Rau, Sports Correspondent
February 09, 2007
There was a time during their high school years at Harding Academy in Memphis when JanAndre Williams, and not his younger brother Trey, seemed bound for college basketball stardom.
JanAndre was the point guard of a Harding Academy team that contended for the state title both of his final two seasons. Trey was a talented and skilled guard too, but he didn't display the promise of JanAndre's game.
"He was always pretty much the best player on the team," Trey said of his brother. "Growing up, I always looked up to him as someone to follow."
In the last five years, things have changed and roles have been reversed. JanAndre has gone from high school star, to sandwich shop worker, to team manager, to Division I college basketball player. Trey's journey wasn't so adventurous. He went from living in his brother's shadow to becoming the superior player on the court. But despite the winding road that brought them here, the Williams brothers are teammates once again.
Trey is the star point guard for the Lipscomb Bisons. JanAndre is a sparsely used walk-on who spent two years as team manager before earning a spot on the team.
`Someone had to be the man'
It was prior to JanAndre's senior year in high school when their mother, Virginia Williams, needed help making ends meet. Virginia had moved the boys from their Arkansas hometown to Memphis so they could go to school and play hoops at Harding Academy.
Virginia did her best to be the sole provider, but in time she needed help. One of the boys needed to work to give the family additional income and since JanAndre was the oldest, he took that responsibility.
"A lot of things changed," JanAndre said of their situation at home. "I felt changed. [Trey] worked endlessly on his shot that summer. And I worked. Someone had to be the man."
Welcome to the sandwich shop
JanAndre took a job making subs at sandwich shop to give Virginia extra income. While his brother was serving sandwiches, Trey had the time to work on his game. Prior to his junior year, Trey's game improved so much that he passed his brother.
And ever since that fork in the road, that's the way things stayed. Trey pursued his dream of becoming a Division I basketball player and two years ago he signed a scholarship to play for Lipscomb.
This season, his game has blossomed as he's become a cog in the Lipscomb offense averaging 13 points per game. Trey gives his family all the credit for his success. "If it wasn't for the things he did and my mother did I wouldn't be in the place I'm at right now," Trey said.
A servant-hearted young man
Without an academic scholarship to put himself through college, JanAndre had to work to pay his tuition and living expenses. After initially planning on becoming the manager for the Middle Tennessee basketball team, JanAndre spent a semester at Memphis before deciding he wanted to play again.
He contacted Lipscomb assistant Shaun Senters and two years ago JanAndre became the Bisons team manager.
"JanAndre is someone who is respected by all his teammates," said Lipscomb assistant Hubie Smith, who has known the Williams brothers since their Harding Academy days. "He is quiet, but he is a leader in his own right and he's a very servant-hearted young man."
JanAndre stayed on as the manager last season but after the Bisons suffered a string of injuries that forced several players out of practice, the team needed extra bodies. JanAndre lobbied the coaching staff to let him practice with the team and the next day there was a jersey waiting for him.
While his brother was the team's starting point guard, JanAndre served as a practice body all of last year. But this season, Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson allowed JanAndre to walk on.
Four years after playing together at Harding Academy and five years after JanAndre's sacrifice allowed Trey's game to blossom, the Williams brothers were teammates once again.
"This is going to be the last time ever for us to play together on the same team and do something special," Trey said. "We won championships in pee-wee, but in high school we always came up short. This year it would be a great ending to a great story if we could go out on top and win the Atlantic Sun tournament."
`If I can ever repay them, I will'
JanAndre is far from bitter for the way things turned out. He says he learned lessons from the hard work it required to help make ends meet. He graduates in May with a management degree and hopes to be hired on at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, where he works as an intern.
As for Trey, his focus remains on the hardwood. He'll graduate in December, after which time he hopes to play professionally, perhaps in Europe.
"In the future, if there's ever anything I can do for my mother or my brother financially or in any other way, I will," Trey said. "I owe them everything."