Williams ’08: “Someone I Had in My Corner”

Reggie Williams '08 shooting a layup

Reggie Williams ’08 came to VMI on a basketball scholarship endowed by John Kemper ’68 and credits Kemper’s support for much of his success.—Alumni Review file photo.

“VMI really pushes you and challenges you as a person, as a cadet, and as an athlete to prepare you for the next step in life and prepare you for the real world.”

That’s what Reginald “Reggie” Williams ’08 has to say about his VMI experience. And while it’s a sentiment that’s been expressed many times before by many cadet-athletes, coming from Williams, it carries special weight because Williams achieved what becomes a reality for only a tiny fraction of basketball-dribbling youth: Playing as a professional.

Following his graduation from VMI, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, Williams went on to play for the Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Bobcats, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the San Antonio Spurs, in addition to several teams in Europe. In doing so, he joined Ron Carter ’78 as only the second VMI graduate to play in the NBA.

As a cadet-athlete, Williams was simply outstanding, leading the nation in scoring for two consecutive years. In March 2008, the 6-foot-6-inch forward became VMI’s leading scorer, a record that still stands today, more than 14 years later. His jersey, No. 55, was retired in 2010 and now hangs from the rafters in Cameron Hall.

After a long professional career, COVID-19 pushed Williams to retire in 2020. He moved to the Richmond, Virginia, area, close to where he grew up. In 2022, he began coaching an AAU 16-and-under basketball team and is now considering further coaching opportunities.

Had it not been for a very special alumnus, though, Williams might not have attended VMI.

As an incoming rat, Williams received a Keydet Club scholarship endowed by John Kemper ’68, a Richmond, Virginia, businessman and former standout basketball player for the Keydets. Then-teenage Williams didn’t realize at first that there was a real person behind the scholarship, however; he’d thought the funds simply came from the school. How could he have known, at almost 18 years old, that not only was there a real person paying for his education but that this scholarship donor would become his friend and mentor for life?

“VMI really pushes you and challenges you as a person, as a cadet, and as an athlete to prepare you for the next step in life and prepare you for the real world.”

Reginald “Reggie” Williams ’08

At first, “I didn’t know him [except from] from a piece of paper,” said Williams of Kemper. Soon, though, a relationship began to blossom. “I realized that this was someone I had in my corner, someone I could lean on if need be. … I felt that as his scholarship recipient, he chose me for a reason. He personally invested in me.”

Williams recalled that Kemper attended many games and made himself available as a resource to himself and his teammates. Thus, when Kemper got word that Williams was considering leaving VMI after his 3rd Class year, he sprang into action.

“He didn’t call me,” Williams stated. “He came to VMI.” Soon, Williams, Kemper, and Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, then-superintendent, were sitting in Peay’s office, hashing out a plan for Williams to stay at VMI. Williams doesn’t remember what they said or did; he just remembers Kemper dropping whatever he was doing at the time to make the two-hour drive to Lexington.

These days, Kemper and Williams stay in touch regularly and have a meal together several times a year.

“He’s done a tremendous job trying to help me navigate through the real world,” said Williams of Kemper. “If I have a question, I can just pick up the phone.”

In addition to Kemper, Williams keeps in touch with many brother rats and often speaks to people who have a VMI sticker on their car or are wearing an item of clothing that shows their VMI affiliation.

“You see somebody with a VMI ring or shirt or license plate or something,” he commented. “You know, you just go up to them and say, you know, what class or Rah Virginia Mil—next thing you know, you just have a conversation. I think that’s pretty cool, as well.”

In December 2021, Williams came back for the 40th anniversary celebration of Cameron Hall—and even played a little pickup basketball game with members of the team afterward. “VMI is a special place,” he concluded. “It’s a great place. It’s also a very challenging and tough place. But it’s like they say—if it was easy, everybody would do it.”

  • Mary Price

    Mary Price Development Writer/Communications Specialist

    The development writer plays a key role in producing advancement communications. This role imagines, creates, and produces a variety of written communication to inspire donors to make gifts benefiting VMI. Utilizing journalistic features and storytelling, the development writer will produce content for areas such as Annual Giving, stewardship, and gift planning.