2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 12/7/2017 9:09 PM

It was worth the wait for Carmel's Williams-Gray

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Damone Williams-Gray has helped Carmel Catholic's strong start to the boys basketball season after sitting out competition all last year after a transfer.

      Damone Williams-Gray has helped Carmel Catholic's strong start to the boys basketball season after sitting out competition all last year after a transfer.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel Catholic's Damone Williams-Gray is playing great after sitting out all of last year due to a transfer.

      Carmel Catholic's Damone Williams-Gray is playing great after sitting out all of last year due to a transfer.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Damone Williams-Gray helped spark a 5-1 start to the season for the Carmel Catholic boys basketball team.

      Damone Williams-Gray helped spark a 5-1 start to the season for the Carmel Catholic boys basketball team.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

Sure, Damone Williams-Gray likes basketball now.

What's not to like?

He's 6-foot-5, explosive, athletic and averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds a game for a Carmel team that is out to a 5-1 start this season.

And yet, not long ago, basketball wasn't fun at all for Williams-Gray.

"I used to not even really like basketball," Williams-Gray said. "Mostly because I (stunk) at it, to be honest.

"When I was like 10, I couldn't even make a layup. I'd miss all the time. I didn't grow up playing a lot of basketball, so I wasn't very good."

Williams-Gray almost gave up basketball.

Now, he's glad he didn't. And an unfortunate situation last year has made him appreciate that decision all the more.

Williams-Gray, a junior, transferred to Carmel last year as a sophomore. He had spent his freshman year at Niles North and started for the varsity basketball team there as a freshman.

He and his mother Delisa Williams decided that they wanted to go in a different direction with his education and they visited multiple Catholic high schools in the area before settling on Carmel.

"I was a little reluctant about moving at first because most of my childhood friends are in Skokie, and my family is in that area, too. My grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins," Williams-Gray said. "My friends lived down the street from me. We hung out all the time. It was tough to leave them behind.

"But I felt like Carmel would be a better fit."

So Williams-Gray and his mom moved from Skokie to Libertyville to be closer to Carmel and to ensure that he would be eligible for sports.

But to their surprise, Williams-Gray was ruled ineligible for sports for the entire 2016-17 school year by the IHSA. So he sat. And sat and sat and sat.

When Williams-Gray, also a football player, was able to finally suit up this fall in his helmet and cleats, and then was also allowed to hit the basketball court in his uniform for the first time last month, a rush of deep appreciation hit him.

"When I first heard I was going to have to sit out, I was mad, and really upset," Williams-Gray said. "I just wanted to play. It was hard not being able to play."

But Williams-Gray tried to make the best of it. His mom advised him that he could use the year to work on himself: to get bigger and stronger in the weight room, to learn the games of football and basketball better by watching, and to work diligently on his skills.

"My mom said, 'This is a big year for you,'" Williams-Gray said. "It was a good chance for me to really improve."

In the meantime, Williams-Gray said that he tried to be the best teammate he could.

"I still went to practices, I was the main guy on the scout team," Williams-Gray said. "I just tried to help the team as much as I could."

Now, Williams-Gray is helping the Corsairs in other ways. More tangible ways.

In football, he was a starting wide receiver and also played a couple games at cornerback.

With basketball, he has flourished from the start, and was impressive in leading Carmel to a 3-1 record at the competitive Grant Thanksgiving tournament. That included a win over Waukegan, which was ranked ninth in the state at the time.

"When he plays aggressive, there aren't too many players like Damone," Carmel coach Zack Ryan said. "He has the ability to guard any position, score from inside and out and rebound.

"It broke my heart last season when Damone was forced to sit out. That being said, I thought Damone handled it as well as any high school kid could."

Now, Williams-Gray is all about moving forward, and keeping the past in the past.

He has high hopes for the Corsairs this season, and would love the opportunity to play either football or basketball in college.

He thinks his transfer, albeit rocky at first, has put him in a good position for a big finish to his high school career.

"My grades have improved since I've been at Carmel and I am really liking the environment there," Williams-Gray said. "I couldn't ask for a better start to the basketball season. Everything is kind of working out now."

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

• Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.