They say you can’t reach your ultimate destination without encountering a few bumps along the road while on your journey. Last April Corey ‘Homicide’ Williams – the 2010 NBL MVP and one of the top three point guards in Australia – was unceremoniously axed from the Melbourne Tigers. The club was heading in a new direction and Williams was not part of their long-term plans.
For a man that has overcome many obstacles in his career to get to where he is, the public axing stung, and even though rumors abounded that another team would quickly snap up his services, it was not to be. Bobbito Garcia, a NYC hoops legend, said at the time, “Homicide is a trooper. I’m sure he’ll make the best of the situation.”
For Corey Williams, this was one of those bumps in the road.
Back in New York City – where he earned the moniker ‘Homicide’ because he was ‘killing dudes on-court’ – the 34 year-old Williams set about re-establishing a buzz during his #SummerOfHomicide campaign and reminding everyone that age had not wearied him. Late night gym sessions became the norm and basketball workouts with famed NY trainer – and New Jersey Nets scout – Milt Lee and his Assistant Ross Burns ensued at the NYAC, a prestigious country club by Columbus Circle that overlooks Central Park on 57th St in Manhattan.
Priding itself on exclusivity, the club hand-picks the players to come workout, 15 players maximum, and it’s never uncommon to see NBA starters scrimmaging with NCAA players and international stars. Due to the on-going labor dispute in the NBA, July provided more than the usual number of out-of-work NBA players looking for a run. Marc Gasol, Elton Brand, Mario Chalmers, Louis Williams and Omri Casspi were selected while in town for lockout meetings. Williams says that most of the NBA guys recognized him while at the club. “Don’t think because you’re not in the NBA that your reputation doesn’t travel. These workouts ensure I stay at the top of my game. So whenever the call came through [to join a new club] I would be ready.”
The always-energetic Williams took to the streetball circuit with a vengeance, culminating in the ‘streetball game of the decade’ at the Dyckman Tournament against Team Nike. Corey emphasizes that the past summer single-handedly revitalized the New York summer leagues.
“If streetball was dead, Dyckman 2011 gave it hope. Ooh-Way [Corey’s team] v Nike brought it completely back to life. In my career I’ve never been a part of, or played, in a streetball game with so much anticipation and hype. EVER. It was something like the Jay-Z/Fat Joe championship game at Rucker that never happened. This game in 2011 happened and lived up to the hype. It will go down as the streetball game of the decade.”
Despite the consistent workouts and game play, offers from international clubs were postponed as many European clubs waited for a resolution to the NBA labor dispute before committing to roster moves. This didn’t faze Corey, promotional work for Above The Rim [Williams is one of the marquee names signed to the burgeoning brand] kept him busy and he kept himself visible in basketball circles, often being seen mixing with the likes of dual NBA MVP Steve Nash and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
There’s a self-assurance that stems from years of overcoming adversity that Homicide carries with him to this day. The man knows the business side of the industry almost better than anyone, so when teams didn’t come calling straight away Williams was confident it was purely a matter of circumstance, rather than a lack of suitors for his talents.
He would continue the Summer of Homicide in Baltimore during a pick-up run that included NBA players, Brandon Jennings, Gary Neal, Josh Selby and Donte Green. Going up against the younger Spurs guard Neal was an inviting challenge for a man who’s made his reputation going at NBA players. At the end of the game Homicide’s team would lose by 1 point but the streetball legend finished with 44 points to Neal’s 16. Homicide was happy to admit he was feeling it that game. “After a made basket followed by the ‘And 1’, Selby turned to Neal and said, “That ref don’t like you,” laughs Homicide.
Fast forward to December of 2011 and just as the NBA was about to start it’s shortened season, Williams, just as he predicted would happen, received a phone call from an international club looking for an experienced veteran. Byblos, in the Lebanese First Division, needed a player to fill in while one of their imports was injured. For a player as traveled as Williams, the move to a country with a completely different culture was of little concern. “I didn’t hesitate for a second,” Williams confirms. “I was focused, happy, and more importantly, ready to get back to work.”
His 5 games for Byblos allowed him to showcase the hard work he’d put in during those grueling sessions at NYAC. “Playing with NBA players on a weekly basis over the summer allowed me to take my game to a new level,” exclaims Corey. The evidence was in the numbers. Playing a team-leading 38.2 mpg, Williams averaged 25.2 ppg (good for 3rd best in the league) on 57% F/G shooting, 7.6 apg (1st in the league) and 5.4 rpg.
So impressive was his time in Lebanon that Byblos offered to extend his contract past ‘fill-in’ status, but Homicide had already signed with Puerto Rican side, Quebridillas Pirates, of the BSN League. The BSN League is a fledgling league but is known for having stern competition. So tough that rumors abound that 2001 NBA MVP, Allen Iverson, is set to join the BSN in the near future. The league allows for 2 American imports plus one Caribbean player on each team, as Williams travels with a Jamaican passport he was eligible to sign as the Caribbean player. He promises that Quebridillas should expect the best of ‘Homi.’
“They have 2 other Americans as well, so expect Quebridillas to make a run for that championship again. I’m looking forward to going to Puerto Rico, putting it down. My nemesis [in Australia] Shawn Redhage, C.J. Bruton and even ‘Wortho’ [Mark Worthington] all played for Quebridillas. That’s a tough ass league.”
Yet, the ultimate goal for Williams is a return to the Australian NBL. A place he fondly calls “a home away from home.” He’s hoping that one of the new franchises set to enter the league have a place for the former Crocs and Tigers floor general.
“I sincerely hope I get an opportunity from one of these new clubs,” states Corey. “ I really hope there’s a realistic opportunity to join one of those clubs. It’s either going to be the Middle East [Lebanon] again or Australia.”
No matter what happens from here, Corey Williams is at peace with where his career has come. He’s come from nowhere, reached heights that players not in the NBA can only dream of, but he guarantees that he is far from done. He wants his story to inspire people; he’s living proof that perseverance fulfills dreams. No matter the obstacle.
“There’s life ballin’ if you stay in shape, stay on top of your game, remain focused and keep the faith,” insists Williams.
Corey playing for Byblos in Lebanon