Jerome ‘Junkyard Dog’ Williams of Raptors fame throws a jump ball for Jesse Barnes, left, and Duane Alsop, right — who won it with daughter Hazel in one arm — at a ceremony celebrating the newly refurbished court at the George Brown Rec Centre on July 21. Sponsored by the NBA and the Bank of Montreal, the newly sanded cedar court now features FIBA-standard lines and a clear finish that shows where it comes from. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Jerome ‘Junkyard Dog’ Williams of Raptors fame throws a jump ball for Jesse Barnes, left, and Duane Alsop, right — who won it with daughter Hazel in one arm — at a ceremony celebrating the newly refurbished court at the George Brown Rec Centre on July 21. Sponsored by the NBA and the Bank of Montreal, the newly sanded cedar court now features FIBA-standard lines and a clear finish that shows where it comes from. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

NBA comes to Skidegate

Raptors veteran Jerome ‘Junkyard Dog’ Williams praises Saints at re-opening of Skidegate court.

Standing 6’9” with his hands stretched high on Balance Rock, Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams is the living image of his Haida name, Supernatural One.

A fan favourite of the Vince Carter-era Toronto Raptors, Williams was the first NBA player but not the only supernatural being to set foot on the newly refurbished court at the George Brown Rec Centre last Wednesday night, July 11.

Before the first jump ball and scrimmage basketball game were played, Haida dancers brought supernatural beings to life on the cedar floor — highlighting all it means to Skidegate.

“Team work makes the dream work, and this community is all about team,” Williams told the crowd.

“I see all these wonderful faces in front of me, and I can tell that you guys are like one big family.”

“The old-growth forest of Haida Gwaii shines so bright,” said Desi Collinson of the Skidegate Saints, pointing out how well the court’s new clear finish shows just where it comes from.

“You can see the veins of this cedar. It speaks spirit, and it gives so much life to us.”

Billy Yovanovich, chief councillor for the Skidegate Band Council, welcomed and thanked Jerome Williams, NBA officials, and staff from the Bank of Montreal for choosing Skidegate for the BMO/NBA Courts Across Canada program.

Skidegate is one of three communities across Canada to receive BMO/NBA support for a re-finished court — work done locally through AMS Building Centre — and one of eight to host a series of NBA-led basketball clinics for coaches and youth.

“You see some of the young ones playing on the floor now?” Yovanovich said, talking about all the little kids running the shiny cedar court on Wednesday.

“It seems like not that long ago it was the Desi Collinsons and the Alsop boys, and now they’re our Saints champions.”

Lonnie Young, Chief Gaahlaay, spoke briefly about the history of the building that Skidegate built.

“Who would have thought that when we came home from residential school in 1962, that we would have this building?” Young said.

“We played down in the little community hall — some of our elders at the time built a basket we could hang over the balcony.

“That’s where we practiced, so we kind of had flat shots,” he said, laughing, and noting that it was then coach George Brown who took some of the first Saints to see their first NBA game.

“You see now, what can happen as a result of sport.”

Jerome Williams got named “Junkyard Dog” for his hustle and grit — he made his Raptors debut in a triple overtime game, and kept that pace as a power forward who helped drive the team to its first playoff-series win.

“It was definitely something I not only had, but my dad showed me,” Williams said.

“He didn’t necessarily teach it — we played together, so I’d see the hustle, I’d see the heart, and I was like, ‘I want to do that same thing.’”

Now 44 and a veteran of nine NBA seasons, Williams is still carrying he and his father’s enthusiasm to young Canadian players.

At Finlay Prep, Williams coached Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, and Anthony Bennett, some of Canada’s latest, homegrown NBA players, not to mention Dillion Brooks, now a member of Canada’s Olympic team.

Williams also spoke highly of the next-generation talent he saw in Skidegate.

“Your kids are right on top of the game,” he said. “I teach kids every week back home in the United States, and your kids are just as talented and have just as much potential.”

Williams had high praise, too, for how the Skidegate Saints have organized the World Indigenous Basketball Challenge — the second-year tournament runs Aug. 8 to 12 at UBC.

“It’s awesome,” he said.

“I think communities like this are similar to reservations in the United States, where basketball is part of the culture. It brings people together, the elders as well as the youth.”

As for a rumoured one-on-one with Skidegate up-and-comer Jesse Barnes, Williams waved a salmon-coloured flag.

“He’d get the better of me tonight, because I swear I must have ate about 10 salmon right before I got here,” he said, laughing.

“We’re here tonight to dedicate this, and to watch the kids.”

Skidegate

 

Not only is he the first NBA player to set foot on the George Brown Rec Centre court, Jerome ‘Junkyard Dog’ Williams is the first to dance across it Haida style. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Not only is he the first NBA player to set foot on the George Brown Rec Centre court, Jerome ‘Junkyard Dog’ Williams is the first to dance across it Haida style. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Playing his first game after recovering from a bad break 18 months ago, Desmond Collinson was on and way, way off his feet. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Playing his first game after recovering from a bad break 18 months ago, Desmond Collinson was on and way, way off his feet. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

A child runs barefoot over the newly painted Haida Nation raven and eagle emblem at centre court. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

A child runs barefoot over the newly painted Haida Nation raven and eagle emblem at centre court. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Dancers led the court re-opening ceremony, following a prayer in Haida language. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Dancers led the court re-opening ceremony, following a prayer in Haida language. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)