SNELLVILLE — South Gwinnett students and teachers filled the high school gymnasium Thursday morning, as did many of Lou Williams’ family and close friends. They were joined by a special group of NBA players.
The entire Los Angeles Clippers travel party in Atlanta after Wednesday night’s game with the Hawks — from head coach Doc Rivers to stars like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — took a bus trip to Snellville to celebrate Williams and his contributions to his alma mater. The Comets’ gym floor was dedicated in Williams’ honor during the ceremony, set up by Gwinnett County Public Schools’ officials and the City of Snellville to recognize one of their favorite sons.
“It meant a lot because (the Clippers) didn’t have to be here this morning,” said Williams, whose name and likeness are prominent on the high school court. “It’s an early morning after a tough loss and we’re on our way to Miami, a lot of guys didn’t have to wake up and come. For everybody to get out of their bed, it means a lot to me to have my teammates here.”
The Clippers organization helped the event happen, rescheduling a planned Wednesday night flight to Miami and changing it to Thursday afternoon.
“(The Clippers) held the plane up,” said Janice Wofford, Williams’ mother. “They were going to leave (Wednesday) night. They held the plane up for him to come and do this. And because they are all so close, just like brothers, they support each other. It meant the world to me to see them walk in, especially the likes of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, because they didn’t play last night because of injuries. It means the world. Not only the team, but the administration of the team came. The general manager was here. It means everything.”
Williams, 33, made his mark at South long before his successful NBA career, now in its 15th season. He led the Comets to the 2004 state championship and won the 2005 Naismith National Player of the Year award after a prolific career as a high school scorer — he finished second in Georgia history in career points.
South’s gym was packed with fans, and often celebrities, when he played.
“I was in eighth grade at Shiloh Middle School when Lou Williams was a senior at South Gwinnett High School,” Gwinnett County Public Schools Board of Education member Everton Blair said. “Even as a student at a rival school, for us, we were both Snellville proud. It gave us something exciting (to see Williams play). It gave us something to look forward to.”
Williams’ scoring prowess has carved out a niche in the NBA. He has more than 14,000 career points, including more off the bench that anyone in league history. He averaged more than 20 points each of the previous two seasons (22.6 in 2017-18 and 20 in 2018-19), earning back-to-back NBA Sixth Man of the Year honors. His three times winning that award ties Jamal Crawford for most in NBA history.
With George and Leonard new to the roster this season, Williams has continues to play a key role, averaging 19.9 points, 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds.
Throughout his long NBA career, he has maintained a home in Gwinnett and is a frequent visitor to South, where he hosts a youth basketball camp each summer. He also has donated considerably to projects at the high school.
“This is home,” Wofford said.
“I’m really at a loss for words,” said Williams, whose No. 23 jersey was retired years ago by South. “My entire basketball career started in this very gym. I was just a naive kid trying to figure it out every day running these hallways back and forth, trying to figure it out. But I always found peace in this gym and with my teammates and the coaching staff and a community that just embraced me and allowed me to do myself and allowed me to do special things, and take a very local town and put it on the national stage. … I’m just humbled to have an opportunity to have my name and my likeness on the floor.”
Williams, seated beside Rivers during the ceremony, took time to thank the community for its years of support and for such a special honor.
“You don’t really envision (a court-naming),” Williams said. “I thought my number would be retired and that was cool. But this is surreal, to kind of be memorialized on the floor, for it to be called LouWillVille, is a tremendous honor.”