Training Day

[h2]Personal Basketball Trainer Keith Williams May Not Be a Household Name, But His Impact on the Game’s Highest Level is Undeniable[/h2]

The laughter and smiles in the gym reveal the depth of the relationships. Although his official title is Basketball Trainer to some of the game’s youngest and brightest stars, Keith Williams is much more. He’s a mentor, father figure, motivational speaker, comedian and confidant with enough skills, at 6’6”, to still step on the court and present problems during 1-on-1 games with clients. Over the years, he’s worked with Steve Francis, Kevin Durant, Ty Lawson, John Wall and many others out of his Washington, DC base of operations.

Keith took a few minutes while in the Gulf Coast region of southern Alabama, working out the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins before the start of training camp, to sit down with to illuminate how he found his niche, using his passion to influence the game in the shadows of the NBA spotlight:

Keith Williams, Demarcus and Jaleeel Cousins. Photo:Alejandro Danois

“I played ball from the age of 8 and wound up playing on a team that won the Maryland state title at Crossland High School. Walt Williams was a tenth grader on that team and he eventually starred at the University of Maryland and in the NBA. I went to the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore on a basketball scholarship and played really well. I was a two-time Black College All-American, had a tryout with the New Jersey Nets, made it to the final cut and just hung around the game.

Troy Weaver, who is now an Assistant General Manager with the Oklahoma City Thunder, started the DC Assault AAU program and asked me to come over to the gym and show the guys some of the drills we did in the Nets training camp. I went from there to working with guys like Steve Francis and Moochie Norris. I’ve been doing this as a business for about 13 years.

My first group of players included guys like Jerrod Mustaf and Tony Massenburg. I’d work them out but I wasn’t charging them, I was just trying to show them what I knew. People were starting to tell me, ‘You should get paid for what you do.’

So one day, I brought an empty bag to a workout and told the guys, ‘Just pay me what you think I’m worth.’ The first day, the bag was light. A week later, there was $600 in there just for one day. So I started calling people in the business, asking what I should be charging. It kind of took off from there.

I met DeMarcus Cousins when he was in high school and got to know him on the AAU circuit when I was coaching there. I’m probably closer to him than any other client I’ve worked with. Once he signed with his agent, he let it be known that he wanted to work with me.

Getting him ready for the draft, we didn’t put him up in a hotel. He lived with me and my wife and had a chance to be around my son and my family. Since his dad wasn’t around, he got an opportunity to talk honestly with my wife and see what my family was all about. And we just got extra tight from there.

People don’t realize that he’s a thinker and an analytical person. Last year, he was more of a counter puncher on the court and just reacting. This year, you’re going to see him pin his ears back and go after it. This summer, we did a lot of skill work, we’ve been in the pool, running on the track, doing boxing workouts and playing a lot of full courts and 1-on-1’s at night.

Because of the lockout, although he was dying to get to camp and get the season underway, the positive thing was that he had a chance to be at home with his family and enjoy what he’s accomplished so far. And he’s at his best when he’s home with his family.

The relationships are what I enjoy most out of training guys like Kevin Durant and DeMarcus. At some point, I’m not going to be running around on the courts anymore, but the love these guys give me will always be there. Steve Francis and I still talk, we’re still tight. Basketball is a short run. You can only play for so long. You’re going to be an old man a lot longer than you’ll be a young man, so it’s the relationships that are going to keep me going.”

Alejandro Danois, Bounce Magazine’s Senior Editor and a Contributing Writer with Dime Magazine, is also a freelance sports and entertainment writer whose work has been published by the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and Sporting News, among others.

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