Former UMass point guard Chaz Williams hosts basketball camp in Belchertown to give back

  • Chaz Williams runs a warm up drill during a skills based basketball camp in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jeremy Haynes goes for a lay up while Chaz Williams watches and Caeden Roeder waits for his ball during a skills based basketball camp in Belchertown. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chaz Williams works with a group during a skills based basketball camp in Belchertown. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Gavin Kennedy goes for a lay up while Chaz Williams watches during a skills based basketball camp in Belchertown. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chaz Williams encourages Liam Menzie during a skills based basketball camp in Belchertown. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chaz Williams works with Jacob Gladu during a skills based basketball camp in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chaz Williams runs a drill as left, Tyler Boisjolie, Nate Fuentes and Liam Menzie run it during a skills based basketball camp in Belchertown. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/16/2021 8:32:50 PM

BELCHERTOWN — For a time, Chaz Williams wasn’t sure if he should host his first camp, the Make Em Believe Skills Academy this year.

Between COVID-19 restrictions, organizing it by himself with minimal help and the lack of a venue, it didn’t seem like the pieces would come together. Then the former UMass men’s basketball point guard thought of the kids that did sign up and his mother Diane Williams, who passed away in 2019 and always wanted him to pass his love for the game and mindset on to another generation.

“It was like ‘I don’t care who shows up, whether its two people, 10 people, 100 people, I want to make these kids feel special,” Williams said.

Around 25 kids from elementary to high school age showed up for five days at Chestnut Hill Community School in Belchertown this week. Williams first announced the camp in March, and the venue didn’t come together until May 1.

“I’ve had this idea for a while now. With things going on it was tough to plan it all the way out. Different things like as far as getting licensing and different permits and stuff like that,” Williams said. “Chestnut Hill reached out and said they had a venue they would love for me to use. It worked out in itself.”

The Brooklyn, N.Y., native has wanted to contribute to the area that supported him during his standout career with the Minutemen. Williams is the team’s all-time assists leader (702), a three-time all-Atlantic 10 performer and led UMass to its last NCAA Tournament experience in 2014.

“While I was here at UMass, I was shown so much love from the supporters, parents, kids, and I just wanted to come back to this area and give back,” said Williams, 30.

He’s played professional basketball since leaving Amherst, spending two seasons in the NBA’s G League with the Maine Red Claws and Delaware 87ers before embarking on a career overseas. Williams has played in Finland, Iceland, Poland and Macedonia. He’ll return to Macedonia to play for Pelister next month.

“It’s ups and downs. Europe has its perks and has its negatives for me, I love what I’m doing. I love being a professional basketball player, I love calling basketball my job,” Williams said. “Everybody thinks the NBA is it, but once you get overseas and see the lifestyle, how people live over there, the culture, how they treat you, then it’s different. Being in Europe is more of a home away from home and a fresh start.”

In the offseason, Williams has lived in Western Massachusetts since 2016. He’s in Enfield, Conn., currently and has stayed in contact with UMass coach Matt McCall and the rest of the program. When Williams wasn’t sure where he was going to host the camp, he said UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford told him some UMass facilities would be available if he needed.

“I ran into a situation where it was tough for me to get this gym last minute,” Williams said. “He made some things happen where I could use UMass, so I just want to thank him deeply for that.”

Williams was glad to see former sharpshooter Ricky Harris back in Amherst on the coaching staff.

“As a player I feel like most kids react well to player coaches, coaches that were players that played at a high level and did great things,” Willaims said. “I feel like it’ll be easy for the kids to listen and pay more attention.”

It’s a path he hopes to also follow once his professional career ends. Williams is coaching Granby’s boys basketball summer league team and also trains players individually, as well. He’d eventually like to work his way to a college coaching position but would be happy to start out at the high school level and continue to give back to the basketball scene in Western Mass.

“The time being of me being a professional basketball player I can still get out here and do things like this especially with kids who are aspiring to be professionals, for them to see me here and be working with them it’s a motivational tool,” Williams said.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.




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