RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (WSAV) – Many Richmond Hill basketball players are familiar with the basketball court at Timber Trail Park in Bryan County. It’s where some of them grew their love for the game. It’s also the place many of them met Steve Williams for the first time.
“Coach Steve was my first coach,” former Wildcats basketball player Justin Jeffery said. “He would say something and I would think ‘Yea that’s what I’ve got to do everytime.'”
Meeting ‘Coach Steve’ seemed like a right of passage for young basketball players. “He took me in when I was in fifth grade,” former Wildcat Isaiah Hill explained. “He guided me. I told him what I wanted to do with my dreams and he made sure I stayed on track and followed my dreams.”
After talking to the basketball alumni, it’s clear that a guy like Steve Williams doesn’t come around often. It’s part of the reason why the Richmond Hill community is struggling to come to terms with the idea that Williams is no longer with them.
The Wildcats’ assistant basketball coach was killed in a car accident Thursday.
“I didn’t know how to take it,” former Wildcat basketball player Sam James explained. “He was such an important person in my life.
Many players called Williams a ‘second father’. For James, ‘Coach Steve’ was the father figure. “Growing up I didn’t have a father in my life,” James added. “Coach Steve stepped in and stepped in as a father figure. He mentored me and was able to help me and give me advice along the way.”
Over the years, each player that came through the Richmond Hill program developed their own relationship with ‘Coach Steve’. The players said, during difficult times in their life, he always made time for them.
“He would never give up on you,” Jeffery said. “Regardless of the circumstance, regardless of what you did he’s never going to give up you. As long as you believe in yourself and talk to him, he will help you.”
Williams never gave up on Vernon Jackson — a Wildcat player who said, with the help of ‘Coach Steve, he got through a tough childhood and developed confidence on the court.
“Once he started calling me ‘Primetime’ I felt invincible,” Jackson said with a smile. “Even if there was people out there better than me I just felt invincible.”
The longtime Wildcats assistant was as much a mentor to his staff as he was to his players.
Bill Henderson was a 23-year-old rookie head coach when he met Williams. After eight years sitting by each others’ sides, Henderson recalls one of his favorite stories about Coach Steve turned out to be one of their last moments on the court together. The head basketball coach remember seeing Williams celebrating on the court with his players after the Wildcats took home the 2019-20 region championship.
“He loves Richmond Hill basketball and the Richmond Hill community so much,” Henderson explained. “You could see how proud he was that these kids that he worked with since fourth or fifth grade could be champions.”