Where They At?
Take Two: Corey “Homicide” Williams is running a lot more than NYC these days.
Last week’s edition of SI was the annual “Where Are They Now” issue. Amongst some of the players that they “found” this go-around was New Orleans native, Jonathan Bender. (Someone should let them know that we kinda “found” him first, about six months ago.) More to the point, the “WATN” issue is usually one of my favorites, and this year was no different. Except it was. Holding and reading it motivated me into action. After consulting with some colleagues, I searched out a few players that we agreed needed unearthing. What came of the conversations and research is a three-part series, covering three players currently at three very different stations. Of the three guys, you may remember one better than others, and one of the guys may have a more moving story than others. But of the three guys which you’ll read about in the next week, trust me, all have earned the digital ink.
The 6-3, 220-pound muscle-bound man prefers to run up mountains. If none are in the area, hills suffice. He’s had this training routine for some time now. Whether in Australia, where he plays his regular season ball, Las Vegas, where he recently purchased a timeshare, L.A., where he vacations or New York, where he comes from and still calls home, Corey “Homicide” Williams can be found working his way uphill—kinda like the way he has in basketball.
Homicide wasn’t one of those child prodigies that took the courts seriously as a youth. Quite the opposite; Hom was somewhat of a late-bloomer, and didn’t get serious about hoops till he was about 13. Even then, the Bronx native’s game didn’t take flight immediately. Nope. Nobody was hyping him as the next great thing from New York—that title was left to the likes of Lenny Cooke and Stephon Marbury. When he was in high school (Rice) and college (Alabama State), and not receiving the attention he thought he deserved, Williams may have regretted the late start, and resented the scouts and critics for overlooking his game. Now, nearly two decades since his love of the game developed, Hom has put it all in perspective.
“Being overlooked, starting late, all of that, that why I play with a chip on my shoulder,” says Williams. “I felt jaded. I thought coaches couldn’t and didn’t want to help me. All of that built up inside of me. So now when I come at you, I come full steam, with all of that pushing me forward.”
That “steam” is the same force that drives Corey to trek up mountains, and work out for hours on end. If he isn’t taking 500 jumpers, Homicide is working on his handle or is teaming up with dudes on the court, sweating to better his pick-and-roll offense. The first place that the effort and drive paid off was on some of the hallowed parks dotting the five boroughs of New York City.
Today when you talk about “streetball,” a lot of people have things crooked. “The Streetball Tour fucked up a lot of stuff,” says a brutally honest Hom. “Because when people think of streetball now, they think of that trick shit.” They should be thinking about some of the legends who battled on the outdoor courts, where no fouls were called, and no weak stuff was allowed into the paint.
It was at that streetball, the real, authentic streetball, that Williams made a name for himself. Touring the city’s various parks and tournaments in the summer of ’01, Hom began getting noticed. He wasn’t just beating cats on the asphalt; he was beating them beyond recognition. Over the course of the first decade of the new millennium, with the inspiration and guidance provided by Todd “Dangerous” Davis, Sid Jones, James Ryan and others, trophies started piling up for the previously underappreciated Williams—MVP of EBC, MVP of Pro City and the list goes on and on. Victims of his powerful takes and cross, including NBA players, stopped getting embarrassed after losing to him because it seemed like nobody could beat him. A streetball legend was born.
“There is no politics in streetball. Whether you from the YMCA or the NBA, if you can play they’ll play you. If not, they won’t. That’s exactly why I excelled: I got the heart and the ability, and I don’t care who you are.”
Homicide is proud to say: “I came from nothing,” but he should be prouder of where he was after a few summers of smashing competition on the NYC summer circuit. What separated his summer exploits and flavor-of-the-month streetballers was consistency. “Understand this: to dominate for one summer is easy. To do it every summer…to do it when everybody expects it? Try that.”
While Hom owned New York in the summers dating back almost a decade, the 20-plus year old was trying to find his place in a league, be it the League or a Euroleague. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, stints in Brazil, Sweden, France, Germany and Israel didn’t go as well as Williams would have liked.
One summer after returning home from a season overseas, Homicide had a decision to make: continue trying to chase the dream overseas or settle down in the U.S and get a real job. While weighing his options, Hom kept ripping it up in summer leagues scattered around NY. That’s when it happened for him.
“Everything I got came from the playground, not from college not from nowhere else. Not too many people can say that,” says a now excited Williams, voice raised a few decibels. “I didn’t plan to stay in the playground and be a legend. That’s a lot of dudes’ thing. A lot of guys love to just be on the block, happy with the neighborhood props they get. I wanted to be known around the world. The playground was a stepping stone that kicked it all off. I didn’t tell nobody about it, but there was a fork in the road, and I took it.”
The “fork” that Corey “took” was actually a Raptors assistant coach.
One day while hooping it up at Dykman, Charlie Villanueva and the aforementioned assistant coach snuck into the crowd. Hom recognized them and knew they were there to see him. Nobody else picked up on it. By halftime, with 20 points already on the board for Homicide, legend has it, the Raptors staffer called up Sam Mitchell, then the Raps head coach, and told him there was a guy at the park he could use on the team immediately. Soon thereafter, Toronto flew Homicide out to run with them in a mini-camp. The fork presented was taken.
“I got that opportunity. You either got to man up or bitch up, cause you’re never going to get an opportunity like that again.”
Williams wasn’t just an extra body for the Raptors that summer; he actually had a legit shot at making the squad. Corey was among three guards brought in to fight for the backup pg spot on the team. When the first guy got cut, and then Robert Pack got cut, Hom was in. It was his spot. That is until the team doctors declared previously sidelined pg, Alvin Williams, good to go. “If Alvin Williams wasn’t able to play, I woulda been with Toronto.”
Instead, Corey wound up in the D-League, leading Dakota the D in assists, en route to winning the minor league’s championship. Hom was ready after the season, and confident, that he would be able to crack an NBA roster the following season.
“The year I played summer league for Golden State, Keith Smart was coaching. Now before I even got there, they told my agent I was gonna play at least half a game. Great! I was excited,” says Homicide, words flying out of his mouth. “That’s all I wanted was the chance to show I could play. Then at breakfast before the first game, Smart got up and said: ‘I’m gonna play Warriors’ players first. And if your agent calls me to complain, I’m sending you home.’ So I had no choice. I sat there and took it. I did what I could when I found myself on the court. But what can you do in seven minutes?” asked Hom, pain evident in his voice. “Just play hard. That’s what I did.”
Suffice to say, Corey didn’t make the Warriors roster, or any other team for that matter. But sometimes blessings come oddly wrapped. This diss was one of those occasions.
Homicide had already tried, and disliked, Euro ball. But with the NBA showing little interest, Corey refocused his attention across the pond—except this time he looked even further away. Corey Williams, a man raised in the Bronx, signed a contract with a team in the NBL—the National Basketball League…of Australia.
Two years and dozens of highlights later, Hom—carrying NBL averages of 19, 4 and 4— signed on to play a third season in 2009-2010 for the Townsville Crocodiles.
“Australia has been good to me. Guys play in a lot of places, and I’ve jumped around a lot of places, but I’ve never had as much success as I’ve had here. So why leave? You find your niche, you stay there. It’s working for me, and they’re good to me, so I’m staying.
So I might not make as much money as at a European powerhouse team in Spain, Greece or wherever, but I’m getting paid. I get direct deposit. I don’t even look for my check. I don’t know any other player who can tell you that. I’m good like that. And when I walk around here, they got love for me. I don’t pay for much. I don’t even walk around with my wallet. So I don’t want to knock nobody’s hustle, but guys have to work twice as hard in Europe to get what I got here.”
Before signing his contract for next season—one that has an NBA exemption clause, according to Williams—and after being named Townsville’s MVP last season, Homicide accepted an invite to play in an Atlanta Hawks mini-camp—one that is taking place as you read this.
Hom isn’t delusional; he doesn’t expect a roster spot to open for him in ATL., but he’s happy with the situation. “It’s not summer league, it’s a mini-camp. That means we’re all gonna be in the gym, we’re all gonna play together. Pretty much it’s like pickup basketball with guys the Hawks are looking at.” What goes unsaid is that Corey is good with the situation because mini-camp means he can’t get benched for the week, and be forced to watch the action from the sideline.
Almost 32 years old and not getting any younger, Hom is just happy for this opportunity to showcase his skills for an NBA team—even if one of local writer spelled his name wrong and didn’t know who he was, a mere few days before camp started. “This is what I work for this is what I run for. I’m gonna give it all I got. Whatever’s after that, I can’t control.”
So next year, barring a miraculous offer from an NBA team, Homicide will be back in Australia. For the rest of the summer, though, Hom plans on taking it back to courts of New York—if only for one last summer.
“This was supposed to be my last summer running [in the streetball tournaments], but I ain’t been around really, so I can’t count it. So I’ll say, next summer is gonna be my last. There’s not much more I can prove out there. I never planned on being a playground player for life. That’s not me. I have plans and other avenues that I’m going. I strategized. I don’t need those checks anymore. Eights summers is plenty.”
As Corey “Homicide” Williams and I wound down our conversation, he began winding up for something else—a nice, long run around the mountains outside of L.A. And he’s gonna keep racing on, until he reaches the mountain’s peak—wherever and however high that may be.
Read “Where They At: John Tootie Allen… here.