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Pitt

New Dixon assistant has Family ties

| Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, 1:06 a.m.
New Pitt assistant Marlon 'Smoke' Williamson is expected to improve the program's recruiting the Detroit area where he served as coach and president of youth operations for a Nike Elite Youth Basketball program, The Family.
University of Massachusetts
New Pitt assistant Marlon 'Smoke' Williamson is expected to improve the program's recruiting the Detroit area where he served as coach and president of youth operations for a Nike Elite Youth Basketball program, The Family.

When Pitt men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon announced the hiring of former Massachusetts assistant Marlon “Smoke” Williamson in June, Dixon tossed plenty of compliments his way.

Dixon mentioned Williamson's successful track record as a point guard at Youngstown State, where Williamson was named to the Horizon League's All-Defensive team, and his knowledge of the game.

Dixon also highlighted what is perhaps Williamson's most valuable asset: “Marlon will help us in recruiting, scouting and player development.”

Prior to his two-year stint at Massachusetts, Williamson spent nine years as head coach and president of youth operations for a prominent Nike Elite Youth Basketball League AAU program known as The Family in his hometown of Detroit.

“I definitely will be keeping a close eye on Detroit. That's home,” Williamson said recently. “That's not a secret.

“The Family is my family.”

Recent Family alumni include NBA first-round draft picks James Young and Jordan Crawford, who attended Kentucky and Xavier, respectively. Draymond Green (Michigan State) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (Kentucky), both of whom played in the NBA last season, also are Family alumni.

Williamson is on a first-name basis with those players, and he also is familiar with two current members of The Family who rank among the top recruits in the country: point guard Cassius Winston of University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy and senior guard Eric Davis of Arthur Hill High in Saginaw, Mich.

Davis is ranked No. 37 according to 247sports.com, which averages rankings from the major recruiting sites, and is regarded as the No. 9 shooting guard in the country. Davis received scholarship offers from Michigan and North Carolina State as a freshman, has received additional offers from Connecticut, Florida, Georgetown and Kansas and has official visits planned to UCLA and UNLV.

Asked if Williamson's new position makes Pitt more attractive to members of The Family, Davis told HoopsIntel.com at the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 camp in June, “It does.”

Winston, who carries a 3.5 grade-point average, has offers from Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Maryland, Boston College and Iowa State as well as Harvard. He also has an offer from Massachusetts when Williamson was an assistant there.

Williamson's presence in Detroit is so strong that Winston's high school coach, Patrick Donnelly, said he believes Pitt could become a major player in his recruitment.

“Cassius grew up in the AAU program. Smoke and Cassius' father have known each other for a long time. Certainly there's a strong family relationship,” said Donnelly, who attended St. Vincent with Pitt director of basketball operations Brian Regan. “That definitely opens doors.”

Donnelly said Regan watched Winston play after former assistant Barry Rohrssen left for Kentucky before Williamson joined the staff.

“I knew Smoke as a player in college. I was coaching and watching him play,” Donnelly said. “He's very well respected by AAU programs and high school coaches in Detroit. Everybody calls him Smoke here. Everybody knows who he is.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jharris@tribweb.com.

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