Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams is keeping busy while the NBA is suspended, in an opportunity he finds rewarding and, in turn, hopes is rewarding some of today’s youth. The Celtics rookie is mentoring a group of high-school students on Zoom.
Williams wanted to provide some personal assistance to others during COVID-19 while in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. So he contacted the vice president of BDA Sports Management, Shauna Smith, who put him in contact with MENTOR, a foundation that helps young people by connecting them with others who support them.
Williams said he was inspired to be a mentor by his teammate Kemba Walker, with whom he lives in Charlotte.
“I really just loved mentorship as a whole,” he explained. “I have seen guys around the league doing it. I saw Kemba doing it with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Charlotte. When we played in Charlotte, he had 10 to 12 kids in the stands that he had been talking to and had touched their lives growing up. I wanted to do a similar thing, but in Boston and other communities.”
Williams was eventually connected to six Black and Hispanic teen males, who live in underserved areas and were already working with Mass Mentoring Partnership in Boston.
The first virtual meeting took place on April 15 and the teens had no idea that Williams would be joining, which may have added to the awkwardness of that initial conversation.
In later calls, the group became closer, conversations flowed freely and personal things were shared by both Williams and the teens.
“I remember that each kid was pretty nervous or not really able to speak,” Williams recalled. “We had two [with the same-sounding name], so we had to figure out what we were going to call each one by nickname. We ended up calling one ‘Donut.’
“I had to stress to them the importance of being on time as well as being engaged, because some would just look around and not really pay much attention to the call or not have questions to ask,” he added. “So that first meeting kind of just established an identity for each kid.”
Williams has given the young men his personal phone number and communicates with them on Instagram group chat outside of Zoom. He said the meetings have been truly insightful for him and hopes they have a positive impact on the teens’ lives moving forward.
“I’ve learned more about myself,” he explained. “You don’t remember everything you went through as a 15 year old.”
He continued, “Looking back, being able to share my experiences and looking at them has given me the opportunity to not only help them, but help myself by learning more about how I was thinking back then. Hopefully, I can give inspiration to them to do better in everything they do.”
Before the NBA was suspended on March 11 because of COVID-19, Williams was averaging 3.5 points per game, 2.7 rebounds and one assist. The Boston Celtics team currently sits in third place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 43 to 21.