Success Stories: PLAYING THE WAY TO COLLEGE

On the 6th of August in 1999 a 15 year old boy named Eric came to Zinsmeyer Academy as a Day Treatment student.  He was angry and defiant.  Eric would not speak or respond to staff or to his peers.  The local school district that referred him indicated that he was surly and threatening to staff, that he was failing all of his classes, and that they could no longer work with him.

What did interest Eric at his new school was the fact that the academy had a basketball team and the coach was in the process of putting the team together for the upcoming season.  The coach made Eric a bargain that if he would allow his teacher to tutor him in reading he would give him a tryout on the team.  Eric had never played organized sports before but there was something about this coach and this teacher that made him feel different.

The 2000/2001 Zinsmeyer Hawk team finished fourth in the Freedom League and Eric was learning that he could belong and succeed.  He also finished that year increasing his reading by three grade levels! By the following year Eric had become much better at basketball by participating in a summer league and when the 2001/2002 Hawk team was assembled he was chosen as the team’s center.  All Eric did that year was to win the Freedom League’s Most Valuable Player award and lead the Hawks to their first ever league championship and undefeated regular season.  The Hawks made it through the quarter finals of the CIF Southern Section basketball tournament before finally having their season end against the eventual winner of the tournament.  Eric was now on his way and he stated that there was a lot more that he wanted to accomplish as a student and ballplayer.

The following year Eric transferred to Wilson High School and led the Bruins to their first winning season in many years and a trip to the CIF Southern Section Tournament.  Eric graduated from Wilson High School and enrolled at Long Beach City College where he played for two years and earned co-team Most Valuable Player awards both years.  For his accomplishments in Long Beach Eric was awarded a full athletic scholarship to attend Tarleton State University in Texas where again, he starred as the team’s leader and power forward.  His coach described Eric as the most personable and coachable athlete he had ever met!  Not a bad accolade for a student that was once labeled as someone who could no longer be worked with!

In 2008 Eric Williams began his professional basketball career signing with a German team and since that time has traveled around the world playing the sport he loves in Columbia, Finland, and currently Australia.  Eric is also involved in youth basketball programs representing his current team the Corio Bay Stingrays.

Contributed by Robert Reilly,
Director of Community Relations
and Education Specialist