The Graduate

During his 10 seasons in the NBA, Marvin Williams has taken on several roles for his three teams.

He’s been a power forward and a small forward. He’s been a post presence and a perimeter shooter. He’s been a starter and a reserve. However, through it all, there was one constant for Marvin Williams - study. And not just an NBA film room.

Whether aboard the team plane, at the hotel pre-game – or in the summer classroom in Chapel Hill - Marvin Williams was working to finish something he started in 2004. In December, those consistent efforts were rewarded. Williams is now a graduate of the University of North Carolina.

Recently, he took time out of his schedule to discuss the journey and the rewards.

The first question I think some may wonder about is why would Marvin Williams - an NBA Lottery pick - go back to school?

"It’s pretty simple. I just feel like education is important. It's always been important to me and it's always been important to my family. My parents had always stressed it growing up and it was something that I wanted to do so it took a while but I hung in there and eventually I finished.”

Along this journey who supported you in particular?

"I feel like my family and my friends have always been very supportive of me finishing school. In the summertime I love to travel. I love to hang out and have a good time, but I feel like they always did a good job of making sure I put my schoolwork first. Whenever I wanted to go out and do things I always made sure I had my studies done and my homework done before I had a good time so my family and my friends are definitely supportive of me trying to finish.”

Was there ever a point where you doubted that you'd finish or even, with all of the work wondered, 'Why bother?'

“No. There was never a point where I told myself that I wasn't going to go back. Each and every summer that was my goal and that was my plan and I just stuck with it. I didn't imagine that it would take me as long as it did, but it was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I just chipped away. Each and every summer I would just go back, do a summer school session or two, take a few classes each session and during the school year I was taking stuff online and doing correspondence. You do a little bit here and a little bit there and you find yourself in position to graduate.”

I know that NBA players have time during the day of games. Did you take advantage of that?

"The funny thing is, that is when I got most of my work done - on the road. You have an hour and a half, two hours of a plane ride going every other night to different cities so I got a lot of stuff done on the planes and then, like you said, I'd have a full day pretty much in the hotel to get things done as well so that is when I got most of my stuff done. I usually did my stuff the day before the game, but I have done stuff on game day actually, more the online stuff because the online stuff has deadlines that are a little more strict than the correspondence, but sometimes you do have to get stuff in on game day and I've done that before.

What was it like going back to Chapel Hill as an NBA player and sitting in classes during the summer?

"It was different toward the end of the process. During the beginning of it, it was kind of cool because the people I came to school with, they were there. Some of them were in summer school and they were all my age, but as I started to get older and every year a bunch of new 18 year olds were sitting in class and I'm 27-28 years old it was getting different then because I was so far apart from those guys, but it was fun though. It was really cool. I made a lot of friends that are a lot younger than me and I had a great time doing it."

Do you live in Chapel Hill in the offseason?

"I didn't buy a place. Myself, Sean May and Deon Thompson; we all train there together so we all live in a house together there every summer. Actually, those guys were really huge in helping me graduate as well. They pushed me every summer. They altered their training schedule just for me and I used to have to train really early in the morning so I could get to class. I'd have those 9:30 classes so those guys would be up at 7:00 in the morning training with me in the summer so I did appreciate that."

Outside of yourself, who was most excited by this accomplishment?

"I didn't realize how big of a deal it was until I actually did it. I just felt like it was something that I wanted to do and it was a goal of mine and after I got done, so many people have reached out and showed me love. I remember we were playing Cleveland a couple of weeks ago and LeBron knew I did it and he showed me love so I thought that was really cool."

What did LeBron say to you?

"He just came up to me in the warm up lines and he just told me that this NBA stuff is cool that we do, but he said what I accomplished, he really respected me for getting that done which I thought was pretty cool."

How are things going in Charlotte so far?

"We've been hanging in there. I feel like I've always been confident in our group. Obviously, we didn't get off to the start that we wanted to. We had a tough November and I think people on the outside looking in felt like it looked a little worse than it was, but we kept confident and we continued to work. Our coaching staff stayed positive and there is still a lot of time to play."

What is your role on the team?

"I just come in to compete. I'm an older guy, an older veteran guy. We've got established guys with Al (Jefferson) and Kemba (Walker) and Gerald (Henderson) and we got a big time free agent in Lance (Stephenson) so I just try to come in and compete as one of the older guys. Whatever they need me to do, I'll try to do that and that is all I do."

Is it fun being back in Charlotte as a Tar Heel?

"Yeah, man. I think that's the most exciting thing about playing for the Hornets. Obviously, having the Hornets back in Charlotte, I'm sure the city is really excited about that, but for me personally, when that was an opportunity, it was very hard for me to pass up being back in North Carolina with my family and friends."

Have people been welcoming to you since you've returned?

"I definitely see people out in the community and there is always a Tar Heel or two walking around somewhere so they always show you a little bit of love which is really cool. I had spent a little bit of time in Charlotte because when Sean played there with the Bobcats we used to go down there in the summertime, so I was familiar with the city as well. It's been an easy transition from Salt Lake to Charlotte."

What’s it like playing for MJ's team?

"It's been cool. It's been really, really cool. He's been great. He's been really supportive to all of us. He gives us some input when he can but he kind of stays away from the whole situation, but I know he is always watching which is really cool. He treats us great. He's always supporting us. He's really encouraging us. It's kind of cool to have somebody in your corner like that."

And he's not out there playing you in one-on-one, right?

"No, he hasn't been on the court yet. I've seen in the past that he's done that with some of the old Charlotte teams, but I don't know if he's going to get back out there or not. You never know. I'm sure he could still do it if he really decided to lace them up one day."

(Graduation photo by Dan Sears/UNC News Services.)

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