It was Marvin Sr. who fostered his son's love for the game, which took hold in the basement of Senior's apartment building. While he loaded the washer, four-year-old Junior dribbled circles around him. As he got older, Junior kept dribbling. To the park. Across town. To school. Marvin Sr. had been a 5'11" guard in Wallace, N.C.; he played pickup against Jordan, and suited up for two years at Warner Pacific in Portland. Since he didn't expect his son to grow especially tall, he taught him to play like a guard. The two worked together two hours a day, seven days a week, while Marvin Jr. was in high school. Not once did his son complain. "Oh, sometimes he looked tired," says Marvin Sr., "but I always told him that if he was sitting on his butt playing video games, someone else out there was working on his game."
The two dueled one-on-one until a 12-year-old Marvin Jr. skunked his dad 11-0; after that, Senior wanted no part of playing his son. The younger Williams also proved to be too much for most college defenders--his length and athleticism allowed him to make a crucial tip-in late in the Tar Heels' 75-70 win over Illinois in the title game--just as he may be too much for most NBA forwards in a couple of seasons. "There are two things about him people don't know," says Roy Williams. "One is his ability to shoot, and two is his ability to slide his feet defensively. He'll be an All-Star for years."
But will Marvin develop a post game, learn to pass out of the double team and be able to make plays off the dribble--the three areas McGrath identifies as "unknowns"? And what about the NBA life, will it change his humble nature? Williams has a strong support group: His dad will move with him to help with the transition, and his agent, Jim Tanner, represents such noted hooligans as Tim Duncan, Ray Allen, Grant Hill and Shane Battier. (When Williams recently showed up for a meeting with Tanner, he did so in a suit, something the agent remembered a player doing only once before.) Instead of clubbing, Williams prefers watching a movie or reading a Harry Potter book. The Goblet of Fire is his favorite, he says, because it has "the most action."
The one thing no one should question is Williams's attitude. "It's a privilege to play basketball," Williams says after his workout. "Some days you don't want to do it, but you have to be grateful because some people can't even walk. To play at the highest level, that'd be a dream for everybody. That's how I look at it every day. I'm thankful that I can play." Provided he's as good as he seems, the rest of us may soon feel that way as well. -- Chris Ballard