THE COLONY -- The video quality burned onto the DVDs might be grainy and shaky. But the quality burned into the mind of Coach Cleve Ryan is impeccable.
“I cannot remember my grocery list, but I can remember certain basketball plays,” laughed Ryan as he watched the video on his laptop.
He is watching a playoff game The Colony played against Cedar Hill on February 27, 2001 at SMU’s Moody Coliseum. In particular, he is watching a young junior point guard named Deron Williams lead the Cougars to a come-from-behind victory.
“We were down seven points with a minute to go and ended up winning," he says.
The comeback was punctuated with Williams’ 3-point play when he drove to the basket and scored while drawing a foul to give the Cougars their first lead in the final minute. Ryan would love to say he knew way back then what the future had in store.
But hindsight is always 20/20.
“You don’t realize in middle school or high school he is going to be in the NBA," he said. "You do not realize the career he's going to have.”
Williams would go on to have a career accomplishing just about all there is to do in basketball. He played in an NCAA National Title game at Illinois, won two gold medals at the Olympics, and was selected by three NBA All-Star teams.
But now for the first time in his 12-year career, he is playing in the NBA Finals. After a year and a half with his hometown Mavericks, Dallas released Williams to give him the opportunity to play for a contender. He signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers and is now on the one stage that eluded him.
As his NBA jersey has changed multiple times over the years, so has Ryan’s rooting interest.
“We are always pulling for him. We have to change our alliances for whatever team he is playing on," he says.
Ryan was the head coach for Deron Williams in middle school and was his assistant coach at The Colony High School. Now Ryan is the head coach at The Colony where Williams’ name and pictures adorn walls, trophies, and banners.
Of the six basketball district championships in the school’s trophy case, three of them were won during the three years Williams was a varsity player. During that stretch, the Cougars racked up an impressive 90-9 record.
“He has definitely added to the tradition and history we’ve had here,” said Ryan.
And though the Cougars might change alliances for Williams, he has always remained a Colony Cougar. Ryan said Williams has made a habit of coming back to his old stomping grounds, visiting his old high school gym and their two families have stayed close.
Eight years after Deron left, his younger brother Kendall also led The Colony to the state tournament.
“We have known each other for 20 years. [Deron] always asks about our kids and how they are doing. It is something he has always done,” said Ryan.
Even during the playoff run to his first Finals appearance, Ryan said he recently texted a video to Williams. It was from one of those grainy DVDs and a middle school game where Williams hit the game-winning shot.