Skip to content

William Gates Jr., out of his dad’s shadow but still living his ‘Hoop Dreams’

May 9, 2013, 1:11 PM EDT

220px-Hoop_Dreams

Growing up in Chicago as the son of “Hoop Dreams” star and a prep basketball legend in the city, one would think that William Gates Jr. would have been bouncing a basketball at birth, doing everything he could to follow in the oversized footsteps of his father.

Chicago is a basketball city, through and through. Every kid in every neighborhood has dreams of being the next Derrick Rose or the next Jabari Parker, so it would only make sense that being, quite literally, the next William Gates would predetermine his path.

And it did. On Monday, Gates Jr. accepted a scholarship offer from Furman, a small university in Greenville, South Carolina, that plays in the Southern Conference and is nicknamed the Paladins.

Only Gates Jr.’s love for and success in the game was no where near as immediate as his father’s.

Where Gates Sr. gained stardom in Chicago was when he became the first freshman to start varsity at St. Joseph’s since Isiah Thomas did, Gates Jr. didn’t even decide that he wanted to play organized basketball until the summer before his eighth grade year.

“That one summer, I went to St. Joseph’s basketball camp, and I went in there and I won the tournament and the free throw competition,” Gates Jr. said. “I was the best in camp. My confidence was starting to build, I was starting to feel good about myself, I was starting to say, ‘OK, maybe you can make something out of this.’ That’s when it switched over to me.”

But just because he wanted to play didn’t mean that things were going to be easy for the namesake of the star of one of the most popular basketball movies of all-time. He enrolled at St. Joseph’s, the same school his father went too, and struggled with the expectations and the pressure. He played JV as a freshman, which allowed the hecklers to call him a failure. When combined with the overblown expectations of folks that believed he was going to be the next superstar to come out of the city, it was too much to take.

Basketball wasn’t fun anymore. So after his sophomore season, the family decided to have Gates Jr. transfer out of St. Joseph’s and into a Chicago public school before opting to move out of the city all together. They would up in Schertz, TX, a suburb of San Antonio, where Gates Jr. spent his senior year.

The reason for the move wasn’t basketball related. There are four kids in the Gates’ family — the eldest the only daughter, meaning Gates Jr. has a pair of younger brothers — and the idea of allowing them to grow up in and around the ever-escalating violence in the city was too much. But the move may have been the best thing for Gates Jr.’s basketball career.

The pressure of being William Gates’ son was gone.

“It wasn’t as big as it was in Chicago,” Gates Jr. said about his family’s notoriety. “You still had people who knew about the movie, but they didn’t really make the connection until they saw me play and they found out what my name was. There wasn’t any type of heckling or how it was in Chicago, it wasn’t like that.”

“Texas is not really a basketball state like that, it’s a football state. Chicago is a basketball city, so basketball is what everybody knows.”

Gates Jr. thrived. He averaged 23.6 points as a senior, leading a struggling Samuel Clemens HS program to a 25-win season and a berth in the state playoffs. With that success came a new identity, as the son slid out from the shadow of his father’s fame.

“That’s kind of how it’s been all my life,” Gates Jr. said. “But I’m starting to create my own identity, people are starting to know me as William Gates Jr., not just the son of William Gates from ‘Hoop Dreams’. I’m finally being known as myself.”

The competition level in Texas wasn’t the same as the Chicago Public League, but it was good enough that his production drew the attention of a number of Division I schools. But it wasn’t until Furman came calling that Gates Jr. really felt wanted.

“I had been getting Division I looks for a while, but it was the kind of thing where the school would say they were interested in me, but drag me along, so to speak, to see if they could get other players that they were recruiting,” he said. “With Furman, they came in and right from the jump I was their top priority and I appreciated that.”

Gates Jr. is a natural scorer, but he’ll be allowed to play more of a combo-guard role which, at 6-foot-1, may be the best thing for his career. His goal at Furman, besides graduating with a degree in communications, is to one day play professional basketball. He wants to make the NBA, in part because he wants to realize his father’s Hoop Dreams.

“That was his dream, but it’s also my dream,” he said. “I think of it as being there for both of us.”

“He’ll be able to hear his name called when I get my name called.”

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Arizona coach Sean Miller up for contract extension

    May 30, 2015, 11:44 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The extension would go through the 2019-20 season.

  2. Report: Iowa State commit updates status with Fred Hoiberg rumors swirling

    May 29, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    (Jon Lopez/Nike) (Jon Lopez/Nike)

    Will Iowa State’s lone 2015 high school commit stay put if Fred Hoiberg leaves?

  3. Oklahoma State lands graduate transfer big man

    May 29, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT

    chris olivier

    Oklahoma State badly needed another big man and might have found some help.

  4. Duke commit Luke Kennard named Parade National Player of the Year

    May 29, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Duke is getting another Parade National Player of the Year.

  5. Amidst Iowa State rumors, Jeff Hornacek discusses commitment to Phoenix Suns

    May 29, 2015, 4:03 PM EDT

    PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 05:  Head coach Jeff Hornacek of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the NBA game against the Memphis Grizzlies at US Airways Center on November 5, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Grizzlies defeated the Suns 102-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

    With Fred Hoiberg being tabbed the frontrunner for the Bulls job, Hornacek’s name has come up as a possible replacement in Ames.

  6. San Diego, San Diego State to play December 5 at Petco Park

    May 29, 2015, 2:01 PM EDT

    Steve Fisher AP

    The last time these two teams met at a neutral site was back in 1992.

  7. Former Ole Miss center to visit Kansas this weekend

    May 29, 2015, 12:54 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Kansas also has plans to host former Providence center Paschal Chukwu in early June.

  8. Former Vanderbilt player Dai-Jon Parker dies in boating accident

    May 29, 2015, 9:36 AM EDT

    Chris Denson, Dai-Jon Parker AP

    Dai-Jon Parker played this past season at the University of Indianapolis.

  9. Former Michigan forward Max Bielfeldt holding off on school decision

    May 28, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Fred Hoiberg’s status has impacted recruiting in multiple cases for Iowa State this spring.

  10. Big 12 Tournament to remain in Kansas City through 2020

    May 28, 2015, 7:43 PM EDT

    Bob Bowlsby, Fred Hoiberg Bob Bowlsby, Fred Hoiberg

    Big 12 tournaments held at the Sprint Center have averaged more than 18,000 fans per session.

  11. SEC announces new men’s basketball scheduling format

    May 28, 2015, 6:41 PM EDT

    SEClogo

    Each team will have three “permanent” opponents they’re guaranteed to play twice every season.

  12. Misdemeanor charges against VCU’s Mo Alie-Cox dropped

    May 28, 2015, 5:46 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Video surfaced showing that Alie-Cox wasn’t involved in the incident, contradicting a woman’s claim that he punched her in the face.

  13. Former VCU forward transferring to UConn

    May 28, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    UConn’s now added three transfers to the program this spring, two of whom will be eligible immediately as graduate students.

  14. Former Clemson coach Bill Foster dies at 79

    May 28, 2015, 3:24 PM EDT

    ClemsonTigers.com ClemsonTigers.com

    Foster led Clemson to their only Elite 8 appearance in program history.

  15. North Carolina to visit Northern Iowa in homecoming game for Marcus Paige

    May 28, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Paige went to high school an hour from UNI’s campus.

  16. #FredHoibergWatch officially commences today, as Bulls fire Thibodeau

    May 28, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Iowa State fans shouldn’t freak out too much.

  17. Throwback Thursday: That time Matthew Dellavedova beat BYU at the buzzer (VIDEO)

    May 28, 2015, 12:24 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Dellavedova was a star with the Gaels before he became this year’s NBA Playoff star.