Like most parents, Jareese Williams Sr. wanted his kids to have a better life than he did.
Williams grew up in 1980s Washington D.C., which could be a scary place back in those days. He still has a lot of memories of that time, as he grew up without a father in a city with problems with drugs and crime.
He recalls an incident as a child where he came home to find that police had locked down his family's apartment building in order to conduct a raid on one of the units.
Now decades later, Williams, along with his wife Jamie, is a part of a prominent local basketball family. For work, he is a behavioral interventionist for the Mason City school district and is an assistant coach with the NIACC women's basketball team. Jamie works as a nurse at Mercy Hospital.
Jareese Sr. credits his mother, and his own athletic abilities, for keeping him away from trouble and giving him motivation to build a better life for himself.
“Growing up in Maryland and D.C. in the 70s and 80s, that was a tough time,” he said. “My mom did the best she could. Not having my dad there made it tougher than it needed to be.”
Their son, Jareese Jr., is a team captain and the leading scorer for the Upper Iowa University basketball team in Fayette. Daughter Jada is a sophomore on the Mason City girls basketball team.
For his kids, Jareese Sr. is a supportive, albeit demanding presence. He emphasizes that his kids keep their grades up so that they can be eligible for sports and get into good colleges. He is currently working on getting his own degree and asks about his kids' academic performance all the time.
“He took that upon himself to look after me, to make sure I have the recipe to be successful,” Jareese Jr. said. “He’s done that with me, and in raising my sister as well. He’s just taught how we have to work hard in order to be successful in life, no matter what it is. Basketball, working, even in school work, he expects us to have straight As. He expects nothing less.”
The elder Jareese admits that he was an immature person when he was growing up. He didn’t take school seriously, and in his words, he let sports “use him.” He played football at Ellsworth Community College, and when Jamie got pregnant with their first child, he decided to pull his life together.
“I never took anything seriously until Jareese was born," Jareese Sr. said. "I think growing up without a dad to guide me along the way, it made me raise them a little different than I was raised.”
The younger Jareese learned a lot from his dad in basketball and in life, but Jareese Sr. attributes a lot of his own successes to the example that his son has set for him. Throughout his playing career, first in Pop Warner football on up to college basketball, one constant for Jareese Jr. has been injuries.
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He broke his leg in football, requiring multiple surgeries. He tore a meniscus in his knee, and separated his shoulder in basketball practice before his first year of college, leading him to redshirt his freshman season. In spite of it all, he is one of the leading scorers and a team captain of the Division II Peacocks.
“He went through a lot of injuries,” Jareese Sr. said. “For him to be where he’s at right now is more of an inspiration for me. He is the inspiration here. It’s not even necessarily what I instilled in him, but what he instills in me.”
Last season, Jareese Jr. had his breakout year. After redshirting, he spent his first season as a role player, averaging 18 minutes and 5.5 points per game. In 2018, Williams started all 28 games and led the team with 379 total points. This season, Williams is shooting nearly 52 percent from 3-point territory and has 197 total points.
“He’s added some different defensive things this year,” Upper Iowa head coach Brooks McKowen said. “ He’s rebounded the ball very well for us, too. He’s had a great start to the season and we expect him to continue to get better and continue to get more."
Jada, the youngest member of the Williams family, has learned a lot from watching her father and brother. She grew to love basketball by watching her brother’s practices and games.
“I would just sit on the bench and watch what is going on,” Jada said. “I started loving the game because I saw how much fun he was having with it. I thought maybe I should try it. I just wanted to be successful like my brother. It really helped me to be successful in everything. “
The two siblings are in constant contact, as both Jada and her father will often call the younger Jareese for advice. On everything from basketball fundamentals to school, Jada knows she can count on her older brother.
“We were very close,” Jada said. “He would take me everywhere, he would help me take shots, and work on my basketball game and everything. He was my go-to person to ask questions and learn from his mistakes on how to play the game of basketball.”
So far this season, Jada is averaging 9.4 points per game, is second in assists, and leads the team with 19 steals.
In addition to his work helping to raise two kids, the Williams' father gives back to the area basketball in other ways. He is one of the assistant coaches for the NIACC women’s basketball team, and also helps train area high school players as a coach for the North Iowa Fire, a local AAU team.
“He just wants to be really involved in the community with the kids around the area,” the younger Jareese said. “He’s involved with the kids around the area that play basketball. He’s involved in trying to help them. He helps young high schoolers out all the time for free, no charge. He just wants to help kids succeed.”
With all of his experiences, Jareese Sr. is making sure his kids use those stories to inform their own futures.
"As I’m going through all these different things growing up, I would make sure they took care of things that I took for granted," he said. "Education, and taking that serious. Just making sure that they take advantage of the situation that they’re in. Use sports, don’t let sports use you."