William Wells, a Waverly, Md. native, has an intriguing life story. Wells attended Dunbar Middle and High School, as well as Baltimore City Community College, Towson State Teachers College and The Maryland Institute College of Art.
After playing basketball in the Baltimore area, Wells began his 28-year coaching career at St. Frances Academy, a basketball powerhouse in the Baltimore area that has ranked in Maryland’s top 25 for past 11 seasons.
Wells had several big memories on his journey at St. Frances like how he managed to get wins without a basketball gym. The awards and recognition he received for himself and the school and the basketball players he has been in contact with in Baltimore.
Wells’ players did not have access to a basketball gym, so they practiced at the Madison Recreation Center, known as “The Dome,” and played home games the University of Baltimore.
When Wells began coaching at St. Frances in 1980, the team played in the Catholic Youth Organization for five years before joining the Baltimore Catholic League (BCL) in 1986.
Wells’ first season at St. Francis was a period of transition and adjustment, but the second season he led St. Frances to a record of 21-0. In his 4th season (1990-1991), Wells and St. Frances earned their first BCL regular season title and tournament title.
Wells pushed for the school to build a gym during his early years as coach, but the administrators felt it was no point because they were not a top basketball school. Despite not having a gym, Wells was able to lead St. Frances to a 21-0 record in his second year as head coach.
In 1996, which was Wells’ 11th season at St. Frances, he received an invitation for his team to participate in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational in California, which featured some of the top high school teams around the country. St. Frances won the tournament in its first year.
Wells continued to convince the administrators about putting up a gym at St. Frances. By 2002, it was accomplished.
Wells proved that you don’t have to be like other schools with fancy gyms and designs to be champions.
Wells had a lot of success coaching at St. Francis, tying Cardinal Gibbons High School for the most wins and titles in the BCL. Wells leads all head coaches with 516 wins at St. Frances Academy.
Wells, who was inducted into the Baltimore Catholic League Hall of Fame, has received seven certificates of recognition from Baltimore County Politicians. Wells was known as a good role model for the community and his players.
Wells had several promising players come through the doors of St. Frances Academy. Mark Karcher, who was on Temple’s men’s basketball team, was one player under Wells to play professionally. Karcher was drafted in the second round of the 2000 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia Sixers. He couldn’t make a career out of the NBA, so he spent some time overseas.
Karcher was an assistant at St. Frances before becoming the head coach in 2008.
Wells is very popular around Baltimore, where he got to know some of the top players who have played in the NBA from the area, such as Carmelo Anthony and Muggsy Bogues.
Anthony was in the 7th and 8th grade when he got to know Wells.
“Carmelo was my ball boy at St. Frances before he went to Towson Catholic,” Wells said. “They all came through The Dome but I knew he was a going to be a big time basketball player by his 8th grade year.”
Bogues, another prospect out of the Baltimore area was coached Wells at The Dome. Bogues was his point guard at the United States Youth Game. Being the shortest guy, Mugsy had the toughest heart and it shows as he dominated some of the top talent in the NBA.
“I coached the United States Youth Game for Baltimore City,” Wells said. “This is how I knew I was good enough where I should be coaching high school basketball. I was beating actual high school coaches in the 21 cities that we played against. My team won it three times.”
Wells, who was a father figure to his players, taught them a life lesson when he was coaching.
“I use to take my team to Eager Street University and you know what’s on Eager Street: the jail,” Wells said. “My motto was that either you going to do it my way or go to Eager Street University. They got all day to work on their game, but the major thing is you want to keep kids away from that. You want them to see that so they don’t grow up like. I think that’s the way to get kids away from the streets.”
Wells himself received the best information that really changed his life early on. Wells didn’t realize he was hanging with the wrong crowd until somebody saw his potential and set him straight.
Wells established a summer basketball league in honor of Baltimore high school standout Craig Cromwell, who was shot and killed after trying out for Wells’ summer league.
“I started this tournament in [Cromwell’s] honor and it’s been going on ever since,” Wells said. “I even started the Midnight Madness at The Dome and when I started this event we had about 2,000 people there and the police told me what’s good about this league is that when it’s going on there is no crime in East Baltimore.”
Wells has given a lot to basketball, but above all he is a father figure to the young men of Baltimore and loves his community.