Duval games helped groom Buchholz coach

Buchholz High School girls basketball head coach Rebecca Williams yells to her team during the FHSAA Class 7A State Championship game last month at the Lakeland Center in Lakeland. The Bobcats walked away with a 63-49 win to take home their first girls basketball state title.

BRAD McCLENNY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 1:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 1:46 p.m.

Rebecca "Becky" Williams used the knowledge she acquired as a young girl on the basketball court behind Duval Elementary Fine Arts Academy to coach the Buchholz High School girls basketball team last month to the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 7A state championship title.

This year was the third consecutive Final Four appearance for Buchholz at the FHSAA championship tournament held annually at the Lakeland Civic Center in Lakeland.

Williams, a 1992 Buchholz graduate, grew up in the Duval neighborhood in northeast Gainesville and currently lives in the Copeland community in unincorporated northeast Alachua County, just minutes from where she grew up.

She is proud of growing up in Duval and credits the lessons she learned while playing city league basketball games at Duval Elementary with being a big part of her success as a coach.

"That was the only thing to do back in the day," said Williams, who just completed her sixth year as the head coach at Buchholz, after serving two years as an assistant. "Everybody did their homework, then ended up at the basketball court after playing softball and flag football."

Then, the city program was supervised by former recreation employee Lucius Mitchell, who retired from the recreation department several years ago. Williams, who played basketball, softball and volleyball as a student-athlete at Buchholz, said she learned a lot about competition from Mitchell and also George Burke, a former volunteer coach.

"Lucius was mostly with the boys and George Burke was with the girls," said Williams, who began playing in the city league at age 13. "Those were the best sports days to me because everybody was together and you didn't have to worry about nobody not showing up for practice. You had to work hard because everybody was good, and if you lost your spot, you really had to work your way back up to the top."

She said Burke and Mitchell never showed favoritism toward players and they always encouraged players to work hard, principles she uses as coach of the Buchholz Bobcats.

Those principles also helped her daughter, Onteria Maddox, earn a basketball scholarship to Webber International University in Babson Park in Polk County. Maddox, a 2012 Buchholz graduate, redshirted this season.

Jessica Thomas, who will be graduating from Buchholz this year after a stellar four-year varsity career, said she has grown a lot as a person and a player under the tutelage of Williams.

"Just from being around her, I've learned that nothing is given to you and you have to make opportunities for yourself by working hard," said Thomas, who will be attending the University of Miami in the fall on a basketball scholarship. "She teaches us things that are going to lead to us being successful on and off the court."

Williams, who coached the Bobcats to a 28-4 record this season, said she takes being a role model for her players and other young girls very seriously.

"I think they look at how I carry myself as a coach and outside of coaching and see that you have to be a strong black woman no matter what you choose to do in life," Williams said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself and I don't think I would try to lead if I wasn't leading by example."

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