As a kid, Malcolm Williams, his brother Christiaan and sister Haeley would play hoops in the family driveway. The competitive juices flowed freely and he loved it, except for one thing. Since Christiaan was seven years older he was always winning.
“I didn’t like that one bit,” says the 17-year-old Pitt Meadows secondary basketball guard. “Playing against my brother he roughed me up and beat me up. It definitely made me tougher. I definitely didn’t like getting beaten up.”
It was definitely good for his game, though. Good enough that Pitt Meadows senior boys coach Rich Goulet says when Williams arrived at the school in Grade 9 he could have played for the Marauders senior team. Now he’s good enough that the University of B.C. Thunderbirds have recruited the 6-foot-2, 190-pound shooting guard to join their men’s hoop team next season. He chose UBC partially because it was close to home. He could still get to eat his mom’s cooking. “She makes a great mac and cheese dish. I just love it.” And his family could come to watch his games.
One family member, however, who won’t be in the stands is his older brother. Williams says three years ago, Christiaan was going down the wrong path and ended up taking his own life. Williams admits his Christiaan’s death affected him “big time.”
“My brother was someone I looked up to. It was definitely a tough loss. It was almost like motivation to take sports as far as I can, to do it in my brother’s name,” says Williams.
Goulet says because of Christiaan’s death it seems like Williams tries to balance his life and doesn’t get depressed when things aren’t going well. The veteran coach has seen the family out playing basketball on the anniversary of Christiaan’s death.
“Malcolm honours his brother,” says Goulet, who also had a brother that committed suicide. “That kind of tragedy you deal with those things. Sometime it’s harder than other situations.”
Williams’ development has benefited in a big way from the tutelage of Goulet, who has been coaching elite level basketball in this province for more than a quarter of a century. Williams has played in Goulet’s off-season Centre for Performance and on provincial teams in the summer.
“Malcolm is the king, or the prince. I call him both,” says Goulet with a hearty laugh. “He’s the guy everybody respects and everybody wants to play with. He’s the guy.”
At last year’s AAA provincial championships, Williams was the only Grade 11 starter on a Marauder squad that finished fourth. Goulet says Williams had some ankle and foot problems that affected his play in the grueling tourney. In recent games this season, he’s been pumping in at least 20 points per game which is quite an accomplishment with Goulet’s team-first style of play.
“The guy can do a lot of different stuff and at the same time gives you the appearance that he’s floating and there’s a lot more there. And you know what, there is,” says Goulet. “He can score, he can downright score.”
Against Walnut Grove in Langley on Tuesday night, Pitt Meadows trailing 61-56 five minutes into the fourth quarter. Williams ended up scoring 30 points, in addition to five assists and five rebounds, as the Marauders defeated the Gators 74-63.
“When we needed to get back in the game we gave him the ball and said go,” says Goulet. “Malcolm is tough to match up against because he’s fast and athletic. People have a hard time handling him.”
Williams is a big reason why the Marauders are ranked sixth in the province. But he’s not the only reason. Three seniors who didn’t play last year – Trevor Severinski, Matt Blackaby and 5-foot-5 guard Mitsu Iwai – have made a large contribution especially recently as the rust gets knocked off their games. Another Grade 12, Luke Gillespie, has also gone from the bench to prominence scoring 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds against Walnut Grove.
“Nobody expected us to be as good as we are. I knew we had it in us all along,” says Williams. “It’s not done yet. We’ve still got a long way to go.
“I feel like any of the top teams has a legitimate chance to win the championship this year.”
After that it’s off to Point Grey to, at first, learn from three guards – Doug Plumb, Nathan Yu and Melvyn Mayott – who will be in their final year of eligibility next season
“I get a year to learn behind them and then after that hopefully it will be my turn to step up and be a starter,” says Williams. “They’ve got an outstanding basketball program and they’ve got a winning tradition and I definitely wanted to be part of that.”
Goulet says with Williams being on provincial teams, UBC has been keeping an eye on him as an ideal candidate to thrive in the T-Birds guard-oriented system.
“He can score inside and out and comes from a winning program,” said head coach Kevin Hanson in a UBC press release. “He’ll get the chance to get a year under his belt but then we are expecting him to step up and be an impact player for our program.
Williams has also talked to UBC football coach Shawn Olson about possibly playing the sport that is his first love. He’s played pigskin since he was seven. This past season he was a wide receiver, safety and kick returner for the Marauders football squad. But Williams admits it would be difficult trying to juggle both sports along with his studies (he plans to major in human kinetics).
If he pulled it off, though, it would be another way to honour the brother, who made him work so hard to earn every little point he could get, whether it be on the court, the field or the driveway.