The two sides of Clarence Williams. . . .
There is the Buck Williams side--a demeanor as stoic as the NBA All-Star forward who rarely shows emotion.
Then there is the Robin Williams side--the ability to turn the Kennedy High gym into an impromptu comedy club.
Further, he is the biggest reason why Kennedy is 10-0 and off to its best start in its history going into tonight's Valley League game against Taft.
"He's the hub that we all revolve around," Kennedy Coach Yutaka Shimizu said of his center.
Williams is big enough to be the entire wheel. At 6 feet, 5 inches and 225 pounds it's easy to realize that Williams' nickname--The Big C--has more to do with his slight paunch than him being Kennedy's top Cougar. The Big C, as in big consumer, sure, but also as in big contributor.
Williams, who leads the Cougars in scoring (15.3 points per game) and rebounding (6.7), transferred to Kennedy from Alemany in the second semester of his freshman year. He was a varsity starter in his sophomore season and the team's captain when he was a junior.
This season, Williams is being counted upon to lead the Golden Cougars through Valley League play and into the City Section 4-A Division playoffs.
"The coach told me I had to take over and set an example," Williams said. "I like to talk to my teammates and help them out."
His take-charge stance was evident in the Palisades tournament over the holidays when he earned the tournament MVP award.
"He helps us in games," Kennedy guard Uba Satterfield said. "He knows the game really well and he keeps us in it by telling us what's going on." Williams also lets his teammates know what's going on during practice sessions, which are often peppered with his infectious laughter.
During a recent practice, the team was conducting a three-on-three drill when a player drove to the basket but missed an off-balance layup.
"Oh, nooooooo!" Williams wailed, a wide smile lighting up his face. "You've got to make your layups!"
A few minutes later, Williams watched a a pass slip through a junior varsity player's hands. The ball, however, ended up in the hands of a teammate. "Nice pass," Williams said as a big grin once again creased his face. "Nice, tough pass."
OK, so the comparison to Robin Williams is pushing it. But the light touch is just enough to loosen nervous high school players.
And the contrast is striking--Williams the assistant coach and Williams the class clown. The player who cracks jokes while Shimizu explains how to crack a press.
"There are certain basketball skills which can't be measured by clutching a basketball," Shimizu said. "He's our spiritual leader and our intellectual leader."
When Williams is playing a game, he frequently yells out plays and defenses. During Kennedy's 81-56 victory over El Camino Real on Wednesday, Williams, sitting on the bench after scoring 16 points and grabbing 8 rebounds, was directing the Golden Cougar guards through the Conquistadores' press defense.
"He's a great leader on the court and he keeps his team going," said forward Brent Lofton of league-rival El Camino Real. "He's very serious on the court. When his guys are playing bad, he gets on them."
But in practice, Williams uses humor to motivate.
"I like to have fun and I try to make it fun so it won't be boring," Williams said.
And that's the flip side of Clarence Williams.