Tournament renamed to honor “Hot Rod” Williams

Kyle Riviere
John “Hot Rod” Williams' 1,200 blocks remained a Cavs record until 2009. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

John “Hot Rod” Williams made a tremendous impact on the St. Amant High basketball program, but it’s off the court where he left his greatest mark.

He touched the lives of friends and family members and provided inspiration for so many more. Williams passed away in December after a brief battle with prostate cancer, but the impression he left on Ascension Parish has been lasting.

That was quite evident recently when many within the community sought to honor his memory and continue the legacy of Williams by renaming St. Amant’s annual basketball tournament to the “John ‘Hot Rod’ Williams Gold Dome Classic.”

“Tim Scott contacted me and expressed that in the community, there were a lot of people that would like to see Hot Rod get honored, so as a staff and athletic department, we decided that renaming the Gold Dome Classic after him would be a great way to do that,” St. Amant head basketball coach Travis Uzee said.

Scott, a Prairieville native and 1989 graduate of St. Amant, got the ball rolling when he sent a letter to former Superintendent of the Ascension Parish School Board Patrice Pujol.

In the letter, Scott said, “When I hear people talk about Hot Rod, their first response is how much he has done for his community and how humble he is. In a world where fame can sometimes control someone’s ego, that was never the situation with Hot Rod. Citizens have said he was just an easy-going person whom if you didn’t know his status, it would have been hard to know he was a former NBA player. Having the opportunity to play in the Gold Dome for four years, I think of the venue as the house that John ‘Hot Rod’ Williams built.”

Coach Uzee echoed that sentiment. He said that it was very important the school pay tribute to Williams.

“When you talk about St. Amant basketball, people remember Hot Rod playing, so the concept of naming the tournament after him, it really honors the legacy he left in the community,” Uzee said. “We have a lot of people that come to our home games that knew Hot Rod and some that actually played with him, so this is a great way to remember him. It’s also important for our kids to understand the legacy that he left with our basketball program.”

The final decision was made to rename the tournament after a meeting was held with Scott, Pujol, Alvin Ellis, Interim Superintendent Denise Graves, St. Amant High Principal Mia Edwards and Gator Athletic Director David Oliver.

Williams left lasting memories wherever he played.

After having a superb high-school career at St. Amant, the Sorrento native went on to become one of Tulane’s greatest players. While there, he scored 1,841 career points, was a three-time first-team All-Metro Conference player and the league’s Player of the Year in 1984.

He was drafted 45th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1985 NBA Draft. He made the All-Rookie team that year.

By the time his career was over in Cleveland, he held the franchise record for most career blocks with 1,200. That mark stood until 2009.

Williams also played for the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks.

But despite the overwhelming professional success, Williams always stayed humble and true to his roots here in Ascension Parish.

“The way he carried himself, you would think that he was just an ordinary guy,” Scott said. “A lot of times, these famous athletes will be flashy, but Hot Rod was never like that. He was a great man, and he did so many things for the community. He could have gone and lived anywhere, but he decided to come back here.”

Now, in a gym that contains a display honoring his retired No. 30, a tournament will be played in Williams’ name.

It’s appropriate that this tournament is the biggest of the year for the Gators. It is the only such event they host per season, and it has been around for decades.

“The tournament has been an important event at St. Amant for a while. It’s really great to get support from the community and the Booster Club each year,” Uzee said. “There are always great teams participating. We get our local teams involved, and we also get teams in the Baton Rouge area and beyond involved. It’s always a really important part of our season and a chance to play some very good schools.”

Fittingly, around the time that will mark the anniversary of Williams’ passing, he will be honored by the playing of the John “Hot Rod” Williams Gold Dome Classic each year.