Originally posted on www.wickedlocal.com
Saugus MA— Ten years ago, Allen Williamson was your typical Saugus kid signing up and playing in the Town Team Basketball League. Williamson learned to dribble, shoot, defend and develop as a team player on the Belmonte Middle School and Saugus High School courts. He was also often seen honing his hoop skills on the outdoor court at the Oaklandvale School in pickup games.
Williamson won his first basketball championship on the eighth grade town team, and was its MVP.
“I was one of the taller kids on that team at six-feet, and one of the more athletic in the league. I had my first dunk ever playing in the Town Team League,” Williamson said.
Yano Petruzzelli, John Bakopolus and Joe Dimino were some of his basketball contemporaries in town, not to mention Craig Cole, Mike Silva, Damon Wilson and Nick Bertrand.
Williamson also played AAU basketball for three years. He started playing on a team based in Lynn, but he had the familiar faces of a couple of his Saugus neighbors on the roster — Tyler Grillo and Mike Puglielli. He then branched out to play for the New England Select and Mass. Rivals during his high school years at Pingree.
The Saugus native has not appreciably grown over the years. Today, he stands at 6-feet, 4-inches, and weighs just 30 pounds more than he did in junior high school at 210.
But Williamson still has that penchant for winning championships as recently as early April, when as an integral member of the Amherst College men’s basketball team he helped secure the program’s second NCAA Division 3 title in Atlanta. His contributions didn’t go unnoticed as a result of being chosen MVP of the Final Four.
Williamson’s path from the Saugus schoolyards and gyms to the big stage in Atlanta, Ga. went through Manchester, the home of the Brookwood School, and the Pingree School in South Hamilton. He suited up to play for those fine institutions, and also AAU basketball, while attending summer hoop camps, all under the guise of becoming an elite player that attracts widespread interest from the sport’s power brokers throughout the world.
On May 20, Williamson’s dream came true, when he inked a contract to play overseas for the Etzella Ettelbruck Basketball Club, one of 10 teams in the Total League in Luxembourg, a landlocked country in western Europe. Overall, there are two leagues in the tiny nation.
Williamson leaves on Aug. 18 to begin his professional basketball journey.
Pro Partner Sports, a Boston-based basketball agency, negotiated the deal set in place by Nick Zaccardi locally, and the agency’s Luxembourg correspondent Misch Engel.
Pro Partner Sports first became aware of Williamson’s immense basketball talents during the Division 3 tournament this year.
“In terms of Allen and his game, he really got on the radar screen with his performance in the Division 3 national tournament,” Zaccardi said. “We were really impressed with his athleticism and versatility, which is going to translate well to the European game. These are all the same traits that the overseas club saw in him, and we're excited to help him take his first steps as a professional. Being a Boston-based agency, it's great to help out local guys.”
Williamson’s signing was an exception to the rule. “It’s rare that [European] teams sign players that they haven’t seen play in person. But they still signed me after watching video highlights of my games, and accepting the recommendations of others,” Williamson said.
Williamson has been on a fast and furious pace since the NCAA championship, and it has all been good. Upon completion of his senior thesis on the collapse of music industry, he graduated from Amherst cum laude with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Sociology. Then, he obtained his first postgraduate job as a pro basketball player. But the work to justify it continues every day until he boards a flight for Paris in mid-August. He works out daily with his personal trainer Jon Currier, and every morning he goes to LA Fitness in Malden on his own to lift weights and shoot around in the gym’s empty courts to remain in shape for that first day of practice scheduled almost immediately after he lands in Luxembourg.
The conditioning is one aspect of the preparation to go abroad. Williamson is also organizing his paperwork to make sure everything is in place from his birth certificate to a passport, allowing him to easily acquire among other things an international driver’s license once he gets to his destination.
The work is arduous, but the rewards of a lifetime dream come true make it all worthwhile for Williamson.
“I’m not exactly sure what will happen, but I’m excited for the opportunity,” he said. “It’s a good country, a rich country, and I think I’m ready maturity-wise to live on my own over there for nine months.
“The team has given me plane tickets to come home for Christmas, but I will always be in touch with the real world back here in America on my Facebook page.”
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