From the YMCA to the Final Four

March 21, 2018


How Loyola Chicago basketball star Lucas Williamson learned the value of teamwork at a Chicago YMCA. "

Lucas Williamson held a basketball for the first time when he was 4 years old. It happened at the New City Y in Chicago, where his family spent Saturdays playing sports and taking swim lessons. “One day, a volunteer coach saw Lucas playing a pick-up game,” says his mom, Louiza, “and asked if Lucas would like to play on the team — even though all the players were three or four years older. That’s how good he was. He had a gift, and we just went with it.”

Today, Lucas is a freshman guard on the Loyola University Chicago men’s basketball team, which plays in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s “Final Four” this weekend after four historic upsets over Miami, Tennessee, Nevada, and Kansas State.

“The Y is where I learned how to play basketball,” Lucas says. “It’s where I learned how to shoot, but also where I learned about teamwork.” When the New City Y closed in 2007, Lucas kept playing at the South Side YMCA. He went on to win two state championships at Whitney Young High School a few blocks west of the present-day Crown Family YMCA Center, where he played with Jahlil Okafor as a freshman, and then to Loyola after graduating last spring.

After growing up watching the tournament every year with his dad, Lucas says being there in 2018 is a dream come true. “You watch it on TV, but being here is totally different. I’m not trying to win a bracket, I’m trying to win games.”

His mom, Louiza Williamson, is now the Executive Director of the Rauner Family YMCA and the West Communities YMCA. She watched Lucas win two games in Dallas, and traveled to Atlanta for Loyola’s match-ups with Nevada and Kansas State.

“It’s surreal,” Louiza says. “There are no words. It's such a blessing to see all his hard work, all his years of practices and workouts at the Y pay off.”

Lucas feels the same. “It’s definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Interested in basketball at the YMCA? We offer classes, clinics, and leagues for all ages at more than a dozen Chicagoland locations. Spring 2 programs start soon. We literally invented basketball, so why play anywhere else?