Corey Williams

Gamal Williams | May 21st, 2021
The Space Coast Stars (Photos by Corey Williams)

The Space Coast Stars (Photos by Corey Williams)

Basketball- a round, rubber sphere, encased in leather. For some people, a basketball engenders visions of athletes running up and down the court, their artistry on full display, maneuvering with precision to complete their objective. Others see a basketball as a way out of poor neighborhoods or violent environments. A basketball may be the best (or only) chance to make their life, and the lives of those they love, better. For Corey Williams, it holds the same meaning, but for different reasons. Corey sees a basketball as a way to help the people of Brevard County, FL realize there are multiple avenues available to them to achieve their goals. For Corey, a basketball isn’t a way out; it’s a way in.

Corey Williams, the 2021 LEAD Brevard “4 Under 40” Leadership Award recipient, started his basketball journey following in the footsteps of his older brother, Chris. “As a younger brother, you look up to your older brother. Everything he did, I wanted to do. He started baseball, I started baseball. He started basketball, I started basketball. I just fell in love with it. It became my calm and grace.” His journey wasn’t without trials. Corey laughs when he recalls his “Michael Jordan” moment. “I didn’t make my middle school team! I was told I was too short and dribbled too much.” The next year, he made his high school team, then experienced a major growth spurt in between his sophomore and junior year, growing from 5’8” to 6’4”.

Corey’s growth on the court matched his physical growth, and the opportunities to play college basketball began coming in. Corey chose State College of Florida (formerly Manatee Community College) and eventually had a Division I school with their eye on him. Then, a poor decision changed everything. “I got kicked out for petty theft. People don’t understand the life of a college athlete. I had a meal plan at IMG Academy, but trying to leave practice and rush over to another school to eat was impossible,” Corey recounts, “My parents were trying to take care of my three younger siblings, two of which were in college. They were paying for everything. I didn’t want to go to my parents for money. So, I took food out of Walmart one night, got caught, went to jail, and they ended up kicking me out of school.”

“Initially, I was upset about it, but it drove me to do what I am doing now. I felt betrayed because as a coach, especially a Black coach, you should want to look after your players. You don’t just push them to the side like ‘There’s no hope for this kid. I’m gonna leave him.’” Getting expelled from school wasn’t the worst part; a scholarship to Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut was withdrawn. “My coach was like ‘You’re on your own.’ He just threw me away and you don’t do that to kids.”

At his lowest moment, a friend reached out to support him. “Mr. (Stanley) Cromartie (father of former NFL cornerback Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie) looked out for me. He told me he heard what happened and he didn’t want me to give up.” Mr. Cromartie contacted Tim Gates, the Head Basketball Coach at Allen University, an HBCU, in Colombia, SC, who offered Corey a scholarship. Corey graduated from Allen University with honors, earning his Bachelor of Science in Human Services, then returned home to Brevard. He started playing basketball for a Semi-Pro team in Orlando but left the team for personal reasons. A year later, he received a phone call that would change his life. “The owner of the league called me. He told me that they missed having me on the team, then he said that if I couldn’t come back to Orlando, why don’t I start my own team down here.” Thus birthed the Space Coast Stars.

The Space Coast Stars is more than just a Semi-Pro team. The 501(c)(3) organization boasts basketball programs that support children from ages 5-18, to include both local and travelling teams. “I wanted the Space Coast Stars to be more than just men getting together to hoop. There’s a lot of talent here in Brevard County, but I wanted the Space Coast Stars to be more. I wanted it to be a way to give back. A lot of times, people make it and never give back,” he says. “It’s sad because people start to say nothing good ever comes out of Brevard. I wanted to change that and set a better example.”

The Space Coast Stars is built around five core values: UNITY, COMMITMENT, INTEGRITY, FAMILY and RESPECT. Their goal? To “empower and develop the next generation of student athletes through sports, and our CORE VALUES.!” Corey’s eyes light up when he speaks of the impact the SCS has had in the community. “We ended up partnering with the Orlando Magic to create the Space Coast Stars Junior Magic League. Through that, we are able to help develop children’s motor skills, improve their overall health, all while stressing the importance of education.” With the Stars entrenched in the community, Corey has plans to expand his reach. “There are so many kids that grow up, play basketball in high school or college, and have no tools or skills after basketball.
We want to give kids a trade. We are creating our own college.” Upon opening, Legacy College plans to offer 32 online certifications, tuition free, in a variety of disciplines to include credit counseling, Real estate, insurance, sport agent, customer service, data entry, media and public relations, entrepreneurship, intro to computer science, graphic design, sports management and scouting, among others.

Through basketball, Corey Williams has found a way to provide his community a way up, not out. His commitment, his selflessness, his drive for and love of his community provides exponentially more. He is something good, something special, something important that came out of Brevard County. Corey has given Brevard what it needed most, an example.

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