Meet the parent: Former NBA forward Williams deals with unique dad life

Bringing home a new boyfriend to meet dad is one of the more awkward rituals in life.

It can be an intimidating process for anyone, especially if the father is deep-voiced, former NBA power forward Aaron Williams.

“I was nervous to bring my first boyfriend to meet my dad,” said Danyelle, Williams' oldest daughter. “The connection they had made me less stressful.”

We should mention, the boyfriend in this story is Bulls guard Coby White. The connection was both father and boyfriend played in the NBA.

Aaron Williams' life as a retired NBA player turned sports dad took an interesting twist. Danyelle, who played volleyball at Northwestern and Tulane, is dating White.

His other daughter, Cameron, plays basketball at Michigan, and she's dating Wolverines defensive end Jaylen Harrell. He made arguably the most pivotal play of the last college football season with a hit on Ohio State QB Kyle McCord that helped force a game-clinching interception.

Harrell competed in the NFL Combine last weekend and is likely to get drafted. Williams also has a son, A.J., who plays basketball at Carthage.

“I was always nervous about my daughter dating an athlete, because I see what happens and how a lot of guys just run through girls,” said Williams, a former Rolling Meadows High School star. “But I think I raised my girls right.”

From the other side, White was much less nervous than Danyelle when it was time to meet dad.

“I was cool. I was chilling,” White said. “For me, he played in the NBA, so I felt like we had a lot of stuff in common, a lot of stuff to talk about. I was just going to be myself.”

So White didn't feel the need to look up Williams on, where he's listed at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, with 14 years in the NBA?

“She told me who he was,” White said. “I'd heard of him, obviously. He played on the Nets team that went to the championship. He had a 14-year career, so I'd heard of him. I didn't look him up. I knew he was big and a solid guy. But he's cool, though. He's chill. He's just like one of us.”

The father-boyfriend relationship survived one recent test. During the all-star break, the trio took a road trip to Iowa City to watch Cameron play against Iowa, and also see Hawkeyes' legend Caitlin Clark set the NCAA career scoring record.

“It's funny, we rode up there together and didn't mention basketball one time,” Aaron Williams said. “Just regular stuff, joking around. It's good that we have that basketball connection, but it's good to have a regular human connection. Plus everywhere we go, people want pictures and autographs, want to talk about basketball.”

White agreed, the Iowa road trip bond was real.

“We were just vibing,” White said. “He listens to the same type of music as we listen to, older rap music like Naz and Biggie and those guys. He's a cool dude.”

Sports in the city

Aaron Williams is basically the definition of a blue-collar player. He wasn't drafted out of Xavier, and it took five years to earn a full-time job in the NBA. But he lasted 14 seasons and played in the NBA Finals twice with the New Jersey Nets in 2002 and '03.

When his kids began playing basketball, his version of the game was what he knew — work hard and good things will happen. Watching Cameron play against Northwestern last week, Williams didn't say much from the stands. But he admits to doling out plenty of advice along the way.

“You'd be surprised,” Williams said when asked if he ever strays from his chill demeanor. “It was more so when they were younger. I just didn't like the effort maybe, or things we had just talked about and they go out in the game and do the opposite.

“But nowadays, I'm way more chill. They're older, they know how to play now. Now it's just about them going out and doing it.”

Williams chose not to re-create the suburban environment of his youth. His kids lived in the Old Town neighborhood on Chicago's North Side and attended Whitney Young.

New Orleans Hornets center Aaron Williams (34) shoots the ball over New Jersey Nets forward Jason Collins (35) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, March. 12, 2006, in Oklahoma City. The Nets won, 95-84. (AP Photo/Ty Russell) AP

“He was a great sports dad,” said Danyelle, who played basketball through high school. “He was always very, very involved and he was like our second coach, so he would always come up on the sidelines and give us tips and tell us things we should do better.”

Cameron likely has it tougher, since she plays the same sport and same position as her father. The 6-3 senior is averaging 6.8 points and 4.9 rebounds for Michigan this season.

“It was amazing always having him in my corner growing up,” Cameron said. “I play the same position as him too, so he has a lot of advice for me. Always in my ear, ever since I was young. It was tough love, but I appreciate it. It made me who I am today.”

Family ties

One interesting twist in this story is through the Williams family, White and Harrell met and hit it off. They went on vacation together to Turks and Caicos last year after the NBA season ended, along with Harrell's teammate A.J. Henning, who has since transferred to Northwestern. White was Harrell’s guest at Michigan's opening game last fall.

Harrell hit up White to ask for advice about competing in the NFL combine. The Bulls guard, chosen No. 7 overall in the NBA Draft, had none.

“I didn't do nothing (at the NBA pre-draft camp), I was just there,” White said with a laugh. “I did a couple interviews with teams and I left. I just gave him words of encouragement, 'Just go out there and do your thing, bro.'”

Needless to say, both White and Harrell have passed the boyfriend test.

“As a father with daughters, you definitely worry about it,” Aaron Williams said. “But I couldn't ask for two better young gentlemen for my daughters to be with.

“When they told me they had boyfriends, it took me a while to meet them. I wanted to wait to see if it was real, then it ended up being real. Thankfully, when I met them, both of them are really, really good guys.”

Danyelle did have one suggestion for how to improve the fatherly bond.

“I'm trying to get him to come to some Bulls game so he can come and support,” she said. “It's just been a really cool relationship. It's funny how we're all connected.”

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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