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Lancaster-born NBA player hosts free basketball clinic in hometown

A high school basketball phenom from the Antelope Valley who now contributes for one of the top teams in the NBA gave back to his community with a free basketball clinic Saturday.

Ziaire Williams of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies hosted the clinic in his hometown of Lancaster.

Williams hosted the first of what is planned to be an annual event with the help of Herbalife Nutrition and Impact Basketball.

The 6-foot-9 forward was born and raised in the Antelope Valley and was inspired to give back to his community which he says is full of untapped potential.

“Growing up in this city, we didn’t have a lot of resources and not a lot of opportunity, but the talent and the creativity and the beautiful mindsets are here,” Williams said.

More than 200 kids, ages 6 to 18, were in attendance for the basketball camp at the Pioneer Event Center. Williams ran the children through dribbling and passing drills and showed off his hops with some electrifying dunks.

His parents were in attendance and got to watch their son inspire kids and share his story of growing up under similar circumstance.

Marquita Fields-Williams, Ziaire’s mother, said her son’s secret to success comes from working hard, staying humble and not forgetting where he comes from.

“[It’s] what’s in your heart and just being a great student, being a leader, and not following the crowd,” she said.

The 20-year-old just completed his first year in the NBA after being drafted with the 10th pick in the 2021 NBA draft out of Stanford. His stellar rookie campaign saw him compete in 62 games, averaging 8.1 points and 2.1 rebounds for the league’s most surprising up-and-coming team.

For Williams, his upbringing in the oft-overlooked Antelope Valley helped mold him into the player and person he is today and he says giving back to his hometown felt like a calling.

“I’m really just trying to give back to the kids and give them a safe place where they can just have fun and play basketball and enjoy themselves,” he said. “We didn’t have this when I was a kid growing up out here, I just feel like if I have the opportunity to give back it’s honestly my duty to that.”

As part of the event, kids were also given the chance to work with Joe Abunassar, an NBA trainer and owner of Impact Basketball. One lucky kid was also given a one-week scholarship to train with Abunassar in Las Vegas.

Tiffany Johnson, the current Miss California USA, also greeted kids and parents at the event. Johnson is a fellow Lancaster native who founded a nonprofit for underprivileged athletes.

Ultimately though, the event was all about basketball and an inspiring message from one of the Antelope Valley’s favorite sons.

“Whatever they want to do, they can accomplish with hard work and dedication,” Williams said.

Williams will now head into his second year in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies. The team’s regular season starts on Oct. 19 against the New York Knicks and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.

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