As soon as Jeremiah Williams could walk, he was either in his basement or at a neighborhood park in Chicago, Illinois, practicing dribbling drills with his dad, Brian Williams.
“Playing in Chicago and in one of the best public leagues in the nation helped me a lot with the pace and the physicality of the game,” Jeremiah Williams said.
Watching NBA players like Derrick Rose, who is also from Chicago and played for the Chicago Bulls from 2008-16, opened Jeremiah Williams’ eyes to the opportunities he could have if he worked every day at getting better.
Now, the Temple University men’s basketball freshman point guard isn’t taking anything for granted as he enters his second season with the Owls.
In Chicago, basketball remains the centerpiece of many communities, and at a young age it played a huge part in Jeremiah Williams’ commitment to the game, he said.
Most mornings, when Jeremiah Williams was in high school he and his dad would wake up at 5:30 a.m. and head to the YMCA of Metro Chicago to work out for about an hour. After showering, Brian Williams would drop his son off at the bus stop for school.
“That’s what my fond memories were,” Brian Williams said. “Just us in the gym, trying to get better and trying to achieve his dream.”
Jeremiah Williams was known as a solid player on the St. Laurence High School team, Brian Williams said. During his junior year he averaged 19 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. However, during his sophomore year, Jeremiah Williams saw minimal minutes on the varsity team.
“Going into the 10th grade, he wanted to play JV, since he wasn’t playing with varsity,” Brian Williams said. “Even though he was on varsity, he wasn’t playing as much.”
Brian Williams, who played college basketball at Western Illinois University, told his son to stick to practicing with varsity because he could grow from working out with bigger and stronger guys, Brian William said.
Two weeks after the conversation, Brian Williams noticed his son’s mindset turnaround.
“You can just see the confidence,” Brian Williams said. “Even though he was a young sophomore, you can see him compete against older kids, juniors and seniors, and hold his own.”
Seeing Jeremiah Williams develop into a physical defender and a better shooter ultimately made Brian Williams want to expand his son’s game beyond the Chicago Catholic League, where he felt Jeremiah Williams was limited in development.
Jeremiah Williams joined the Chicago Public School League at Simeon Career Academy in 2019, which has a reputation for producing NBA players, like Rose and Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Talen Horton-Tucker.
During Jeremiah Williams’ senior year in 2019-20, as a small forward, he helped Simeon to a city title, scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the championship game.
However, his team couldn’t compete for a state championship once the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, which ended Jeremiah Williams’ high school basketball career.
Temple came calling late in Jeremiah Williams’ recruiting process during his senior year. While other schools like Southern Illinois University, Loyola University Chicago, St. Bonaventure University and Western Kentucky University were recruiting him, none of the programs fit what he was looking for, Jeremiah Williams said.
“Like every young player coming out of high school, they want to play early,” Brian Williams said. “He felt that was a chance that he could get in and play early as a true freshman at Temple.”
Jeremiah Williams credits freshman guard Quincy Ademokoya, a friend of his before coming to North Philadelphia, for Temple reaching out to him.
“He realized I wasn’t committed, and he told the coaching staff to talk to me a little bit, see what my interest was,” Jeremiah Williams said.
Ademokoya committed to Temple early in the fall of his senior year. Once he noticed Temple players were entering the transfer portal, he mentioned to Jeremiah Williams that spots were opening up, Ademokoya said.
“I felt like Temple was going to be the school that stuck out to him,” Ademokoya said. “With the offers he currently had, I just felt it was a good situation for him.”
Jeremiah Williams started competing in an AAU league and a JR Hoops Elite camp in middle school where he met Ademokoya, and the two instantly connected.
“We just kind of had that natural click,” he added. “It was just my brother from the beginning, so, you know, we probably played hours of NBA 2k, and talking to each other within those hours just builds up friendship and brotherhood.”
Ademokoya grew up in Bloomington, Illinois, but moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in the 10th grade. Jeremiah Williams only met Ademokya once, but the two stayed connected through video games until they were able to meet again as Owls.
“Williams is an electrifying player,” Ademokya said. “He’s a dog on defense, from Chicago, so you know, the guy hard on and off the court that’s like my jokester. We still play the game together and I just feel like he’s gonna be around for the rest of my life.”
Growing up, Jeremiah Williams always played as a point guard, but being 6-foot-5-inches he also played the forward position, depending on the physicality of the opposing team.
“I had to get re-acclimated with the position, the point guard position, buttoning all the spots, being the leader on the floor,” Jeremiah Williams said. “But you know, now I know kind of what a big man is supposed to do.”
Last season, Jeremiah Williams played all 16 games, averaged 9.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, but his success can be found in setting up scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Jeremiah Williams led the team last season with 65 assists, and he hopes he’ll improve his court vision this season.
“I just want to leave my mark here,” Jeremiah Williams said. “I’m just a player that wants to win.”