Lima’s reputation for producing great basketball players didn’t happen by accident and the phenomena didn’t begin recently. If you follow the line of great athletes who mastered the game of basketball in our community, you will discover they owe a debt of gratitude to the mentors who guided and nourished their development and love of the game. Greg “Radar” Williamson belongs in that group and the list of young men whose lives he impacted is endless.
Williamson grew up on 12th Street in Lima’s deep south end. Like so many others in his generation he was drawn to basketball and spent hours in his youth perfecting his skill on the hard-scrabble outdoor basketball courts sprinkled throughout the area known as “Victory Village.” It was a playground legend, Curly Baker, who tagged Williamson with the nickname, “Radar.” “I was always trying to get in the games at Whittier playground but I was too young,” Williamson recalls. “Curly watched me play once and he saw that I could shoot it. He began picking me on his teams and told me to shoot it every time I touched the ball because I had a kind of radar in me. The name just stuck.” Today, anyone remotely connected to the game of basketball in this area knows exactly who Radar is.
Radar became an all-city performer for Perry High School playing for coach John Bean, a mentor who remains impactful in his life. After graduating from Perry in 1976 he began working second shifts at Ford but missed basketball. “When I got home after work, I would shoot late into the night, in the dark, on the courts at Salvation Army. I really missed the game,” he says. After working for three years at Ford and saving his money, Radar made a life changing decision.
“I felt like I was wasting my God-given talent and enrolled at NBC Tech (now UNOH) and walked on to the basketball team,” Williamson says. Coach Denny Elwer quickly realized his talent and awarded him a scholarship. His spectacular career there earned him induction into the UNOH Hall of Fame.
After obtaining his degree Williamson began a 30-year career as a design technician at ODOT, but still chased his passion for basketball. He formed an adult traveling team in the ’80s called the LA Express that traveled between the tri-state area competing in tournaments with local players like Emzur Shurelds, Tom Terry and Bruce Andrews.
Beginning in the ’90s Radar began seeing a disturbing trend in youth basketball in Lima. Fewer kids were playing and many were coming under the spell of gangs that were spreading their poison in the community. “We had a lot of young men who were trying to be gangsters and thugs,” he says. “A group of us (Henry Hurley, Chris Jackson, Elder Tibbs) got together at Bradfield Center and came up with an idea for an outreach program to lure kids off the streets and into the gym,” he added.
That was the birth of Team Lima, a very early AAU program that traveled to major basketball tournaments. “In the beginning we were a rag-tag outfit,” Radar says. “Half of our first team had been in JDC.” (Juvenile Detention Center) That group included a young Quincey Simpson who turned his life around after the experience and today pays it forward as the head basketball coach of Lima Senior High School.
Team Lima quickly earned a reputation for fielding serious talent. “We were competitive right away and decided to take the team to the National AAU tournament in Las Vegas,” Radar says. “Two local car dealerships donated the use of two vans and my wife, Daisy, and I drove the team 35 straight hours, in July, to Vegas,” Williamson says. The vagabond team arrived in Vegas, pulled on its tattered, sleeveless T-shirts that had numbers and started balling. “We didn’t win the tournament, but we won a lot of games and opened a lot of eyes,” Radar added.
Team Lima evolved into a platform for many of the best players in the area during its run. Players like Mr. Basketballers Aaron Hutchins, Jamar Butler and Xavier Simpson and guys like Clay Tucker, Jim Conrad, Mark Bishop, Shawn Powell, Andre Horton, Joe Hutchins, Travis Walton, Seth Newlove, Lewis Shine, Sammy Villegas, Martyce Kimbrough, Dantez Walton, Will Vorhees and many, many others spent time in the program. All of them played basketball at the collegiate level and several climbed the ladder to compete professionally. They all give props to Radar for playing a role in their development and exposure.
For many years Radar packed a van full of seniors from the area who he felt were under-recruited and drove them to Kansas City to a summer showcase where athletes were given one last chance to shine. Several walked away with scholarships, including Clay Tucker who scored a last-minute basketball scholarship to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Tucker’s career there was legendary and he parlayed it into a long professional basketball career in Europe.
Over time, Team Lima evolved into C2K Elite, a program that draws its talent from all around the state and has a national sponsor in Under Armor
Today, Radar spends his time in retirement training young athletes and former college players who are trying to extend their careers at the professional level. He can often be found early in the morning at the YMCA patiently putting athletes, young and old, through their paces.
Greg “Radar” Williamson’s contribution, his ministry and his commitment to the youth of our community has always been for the benefit of others and never about himself. His motivation has been his love of the game and his passion for helping others.
Lima-land basketball has Radar’s DNA written all over it.
Reach Bob Seggerson at firstname.lastname@example.org.