Samuell Williamson (left) and Tyrese Maxey (right) go head to head. Photo by @visualsbydre
Tyrese Maxey and Samuell Williamson will end their high school basketball careers as McDonald’s All-Americans. Though close in proximity, their schools separated by thirteen miles, the hoops journey for each player has been distinctly different.
Maxey, a Kentucky signee, has been on some form of national ranking since his days as a middle schooler. As a member of USA basketball’s youth development program, he has won gold medals on multiple continents and garnered major college attention the day he stepped on South Garland’s campus.
His father, Tyrone, a Washington State alum and South Garland assistant, is a Texas state champion. His mother, Denyse, lettered in track, volleyball and basketball in high school. It seems the 6’3 guard was born for this level of success. His ever present smile is an open dare directed at opposing defenses. He plays with purpose and a contagious love for the game, you can tell he’s at home on the hardwood.
“Tyrese, has unbelievable competitive spirit, said Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari on signing day. “I love Tyrese’s basketball savvy. He has an elite ability to score the ball, yet he creates shots for his teammates, he defends and he rebounds. In all the time I’ve watched him play, rarely does he make the wrong play. He may not make every shot, but he almost always makes the right play. You can tell that he’s a coach’s son. Physically he is going to be able compete with the best in the country.”
His McDonald’s selection may not have come as a surprise to his inner circle but he says nothing has ever been expected of him other than hard work. “I’ve never felt like anything was given to me, I’ve always felt like I had something to prove, back then and even now. I still have a lot to prove. For me, the goal is to get 1% better every single day. I’ve never expected anything, I’m just like everyone else, happy to see my name on the list.”
In contrast to Maxey, little was known about Samuell Williamson prior to his junior season. As a member of Rockwall’s freshman team he was unknown to college coaches, recruiting services, and basketball media. A self titled “late bloomer”, the Louisville signee developed in absolute obscurity. He would spend two summers riding his bike three miles to an outdoor court before the sun released the furnace like Texas heat. “If you really want it, you have to be crazy for this game, you have to do things that people aren’t willing to do. I didn't have a car or a ride to the gym so I had to make it happen and riding my bike to that park was the only option. You have to love seeing yourself improve. I love getting better,” said Williamson.
A six inch growth spurt turned the scrawny guard in to a 6'7 skilled wing and the attention would follow. He ended last summer named to the Nike Skills Academy showcase game, signed to the University of Louisville this fall, and will now play in the nation’s premier all-star game for high school hoopers.
He attributes his success to the fuel created by being overlooked and the never ending support from his mom, Sue. “ Honestly, I didn’t always have a lot of confidence in my game. A lot of people didn’t know me my freshman and sophomore years. I kept working and I didn’t care about the rankings. To be honest, I’ve always been really skilled but my body and athleticism hadn’t caught up. It wasn’t until the summer before my junior year that I felt I could play with anyone in the country. My mom and I are very close and she always told me nobody works harder than you and I believe that 100 percent. She does everything for me and has made so many sacrifices.”
Mutual respect is plentiful. “Sam is the definition of getting better every year. Every time I see him, he has gotten better. He is a true testament of what hard work will do for you, said Maxey.” “Tyrese is a heck of a player and it’s always fun playing against him. You know you’re going to be challenged every time he steps on the floor,” Williamson said.
As the Texas high school basketball season winds down, each player has his team positioned for a playoff run. The fifth and final high school matchup is a serious possibility. It is the elephant in the locker room. “I love playing against South Garland more than any other team in the state", said Williamson. “The first time we played it took three overtimes to decide the outcome. They beat us twice my junior year and we beat them most recently in the fall and we could meet them again in the playoffs.” Maxey said, “There’s a strong possibility we will see each other again in the playoffs and it’s only right that we finish it up here before we play again next year.”
In the case of these two young ball players, the Chinese proverb, “There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same,” has proven to be true.