Troy Williams' transfer to Oak Hill removes him from comfort zone

Troy Williams' transfer from Phoebus High, the hometown school where his Aunt Terri and Uncle Boo excelled, to Oak Hill Academy was more than a basketball decision.

Of course, Oak Hill's renowned team is the foremost reason. Were Williams a scholarship physicist, he wouldn't be heading 300 miles west to the remote boarding school whose alumni include All-Americans and NBA scoring champs.

But Warriors coach Steve Smith didn't encounter just Troy and Boo Williams in this process. He met the strong women in Troy's life: his mother and grandmother.

"They pushed this more than I did," Boo said from Oakland, Calif., where he's coaching Troy and others this weekend in Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League.


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And they pushed this not just because Smith and his staff have the chops to refine Troy's game.

"We thought Troy needed to mature and get away from home," Boo said.

Not to suggest Troy is troubled or troubling. Far from it. He's just a young man, like countless others, who needs to step away from his comfort zone.

Watch him play. As animated as he is on the court, he appears equally reticent off.

Now a high-visibility athlete, which Troy aspires to be, needn't be a glib showman -- Larry Bird and Tim Duncan, two of basketball's all-time great forwards, spring immediately to mind. But Oak Hill's exacting academics and grueling basketball should prepare Troy, a rising senior, for the college grind — intellectually, socially and athletically — that's less than a year-and-a-half away.

"You only do two things out there," Boo said of Oak Hill's southwestern Virginia outpost in Mouth of Wilson. "Play basketball and go to school."

Boo said neither he nor Troy has visited Oak Hill, a co-educational, Baptist-affiliated school for grades 8-12. Oak Hill admits only about 155 students a year, is more than 30 miles off Interstate 81 and enforces "quiet time" each evening from 8:30-10:30.

Translation: Mouth of Wilson bears no resemblance to the Peninsula.

Here Troy developed into a 6-foot-7 small forward whose raw athleticism earned him scholarship offers from national powers such as Georgetown, Kentucky, Louisville and North Carolina. But anyone who watched his junior season at Phoebus closely will tell you he struggled, especially with his shooting.

Kevin Durant, who rates with Dirk Nowitzki among the NBA's most versatile scorers, is Troy's basketball role model. But too often Troy settles for 3-pointers when he could create something more reliable for himself or a teammate.

If any high school coach can teach Troy the nuances he'll need, it's Smith. Entering his 28th season at Oak Hill, he knows how to mold a roster replete with Division I prospects into an honest-to-goodness team.

Given how coddled and entitled so many young, top-shelf athletes are, Smith's task is not easy. But with eight mythical national championships and a cross-country schedule that generates considerable television exposure, Smith has instant credibility with his players.

This past season, Oak Hill played more games, 44, than any college team. The Warriors rarely were threatened and never beaten en route to USA Today and ESPN national titles.

"We would have had to play real bad to lose," Smith said of a roster that included Georgetown-bound guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, guard Tyler Lewis (North Carolina State), forward Jordan Adams (UCLA), forward Damien Wilson (Memphis) and center A.J. Hammons (Purdue).

Among Smith's former players: Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Ty Lawson, Josh Smith, Nolan Smith, Cory Alexander, Jerry Stackhouse, Brandon Jennings and Rajon Rondo.

Alexander, among the best point guards in University of Virginia history, is an assistant coach for Boo Williams and encouraged Troy's enrollment at Oak Hill.

Troy will join a roster that also includes touted guards Sindarius Thornwell and R.J. Curington. Point guard Nate Britt, a North Carolina pledge, also will play at Oak Hill, MaxPreps.com reports.

Another product of Boo Williams' program, rising junior guard Chris Tang of Hampton Roads Academy, is Oak Hill-bound, according to his host family in Williamsburg. Tang hails from China and as a sophomore earned first-team Division II all-state honors from the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association.

In short, Troy won't have the pressures of stardom and legacy at Oak Hill. At Phoebus, he was the centerpiece. At Phoebus, he wore the same number, 5, that Boo did more than three decades ago. At Phoebus, some still remember his aunt, Terri Williams-Flournoy, now the head women's coach at Auburn.

Next season, Oak Hill will play in Hawaii, Las Vegas and at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Such venues are not the Peninsula District, where Boo could attend all of Troy's games.

"I'll still get to see him play," Boo said. "Every weekend I know I'll be on the road."

David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP

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