Some folks out there might turn away from reading this column when they see it’s about a student from a private school. Perhaps because they feel the “private school” label must mean the student is privileged and has had everything handed to him or her.
If that’s you, give Lancaster Country Day boys basketball senior guard Andrew Williams a chance.
Because his story – off the court as well as on it – will change your mind.
From the start
When Williams was in first grade, his parents divorced. By the time he reached sixth grade, he had already moved six times.
His father is a plumber, while his mother has been a foster parent for most of her adult life. She is currently inching toward an associate’s degree. Williams, meanwhile, has done the classroom work to have earned a partial academic scholarship to Lancaster Country Day since the fifth grade. The rest of his tuition is covered through financial aid.
He has done so while living in Lancaster since the fourth grade. He now shares a house with his mom, an older brother and a younger sister who was recently adopted.
These life experiences help explain how Williams has become the player — and person — he is today.
On the court
Through his tireless work ethic, the 5-foot-10, 145-pound Williams has made himself into a versatile guard who can knock down a shot from just about anywhere, handle the rock, drive the lane and dish to teammates.
“Every practice for (Williams) is like the last time he’s going to play basketball,” first-year Lancaster Country Day coach Jon Shultz said.
A year ago, Williams helped lead the Cougars to the program’s first appearance in a District Three Class 1A title game. In the first eight games of this season, Williams is averaging 14.1 points per game and has helped LCD get off to a 6-2 start and 2-1 Lancaster-Lebanon League mark in the program’s first go-around as an L-L member.
Entering Friday’s action, Williams sits at 937 career points, and should crack 1,000 in the next couple weeks. But the thing is, he actually gets more enjoyment out of setting up teammates for open shots.
“I can score,” Williams said. “But I love distributing the ball.”
Obviously, Williams has talent and work ethic to spare on the court.
But off the court?
That’s where things get even more interesting.
Over the last year or so, Williams has combined his love for fashion and his desire to help others by developing an apparel company he hopes will one day prosper by giving all its proceeds back to needy children and families.
“Coming from the city, my idea for a clothing line is that not a lot of kids make it out of Lancaster city,” Williams said.
He has seen this firsthand. He has a friend, he says, who is currently in prison.
"That’s what motivated me to make a change because I don’t want to see anyone else go through that,” Williams said.
It’s here where Jordan Steffy comes into play. A former Conestoga Valley standout quarterback and basketball player, Steffy went on to play football at the University of Maryland in the mid-2000s. He has since returned to his hometown and built the highly successful nonprofit Children Deserve a Chance Foundation.
Last month, the foundation topped the Extraordinary Give leaderboard by pulling in $549,496 during the one-day, countywide fundraising event. The foundation’s mission is to help students reach and succeed in college. Williams is one of those students. He’s been involved with the foundation since third grade.
“Jordan is my role model,” Williams said of Steffy. “He’s more of a big brother to me rather than a mentor. ... I don’t know where I’d be without him.”
Among many tools the foundation provides, each year it conducts a class that teaches students how to start a business. That class is where Williams came up with the idea for 2UP Apparel.
“2UP” is because Williams believes he needs to be two steps in front of his competition — which also explains his No. 2 basketball jersey.
“The biggest value we’ve added to Andrew is taking him through the process of launching, which is cumbersome,” Steffy said of the foundation’s startup class. “The second thing we add is the initial startup capital. One reason why people don’t start businesses is because it costs money. ... We’ve had a ton of conversations with Andrew and made him focus, to pull out the narrative he has within himself, allowing him to articulate what this brand stood for.”
The foundation has also taken Williams and others on college trips across the country, in addition to providing guidance in the college application process. Williams said he has already been accepted to Shippensburg University and is waiting to hear back on applications to Drexel University and the University of Michigan, both of which have excellent business programs. He would like to study entrepreneurship and business.
He’d also like to play basketball at the next level, even though he hasn’t yet received any interest from college basketball coaches.
“I’m trying to change that this year,” he said.
Either way, Williams said he will become the first member of his family to attend a four-year college.
Now that’s a story worth getting behind, don’t you think?