If you want to talk to Marmet Williams, don't call him at home. At least not for a couple more weeks.
See, the Mater Dei forward recently had his telephone privileges revoked. Seems he and his buddies didn't know that 900 "party line" number they dialed about, oh, 20 or 30 times from his Fountain Valley home last month would add up to anything more than some interesting conversation.
His father has the $82 phone bill to prove otherwise.
"Marmet said, 'But dad . . . I thought it was free ,' " Horace Williams says. "I told him, 'Sorry, Marmet. No phone for you for two months.' Then I call the house and what does he do? Picks it up on the first ring."
Horace recounts the story with a smile. Seems he and Marmet go back a ways in the mischief department, back to when Marmet was just a quick-footed toddler and Horace, then newly divorced, was discovering what it was like to raise a boy on his own.
Back then, wherever Horace went, Marmet went with him. They were a team of two, whether it was Indian Guides or carousel rides, Cub Scouts or father-son wrestling bouts on the living room rug.
Today, even though they're separated by more than a generation--Horace is 60; Marmet, 17--they're not divided by the gap. They're roommates, best friends, the bachelors in Apartment 19.
And each other's inspiration.
Asked to name a highlight of the season so far, Marmet patted the top of his shaved head and let out a sigh. Surely, it has been a great year for the Monarchs--they play for the State Division I championship Saturday--so maybe Marmet was having trouble narrowing his choices.
There was that early-season game against Lynwood, when he had 22 points and 19 rebounds. Or last week, when Mater Dei beat Capistrano Valley for the Southern California regional title. Or the section championship the week before. Or . . .
Marmet had his answer.
"Maturity," he said. "Just my becoming more mature this year. That's my highlight."
One he says he owes to his father.
As a sophomore last year, Marmet was brought up to the varsity but demoted to junior varsity midway through the league season. He remembers shooting an airball while playing in a December tournament, getting benched immediately after, and feeling his confidence--and his heart--sink.
The demotion was a great disappointment. His most popular expression thereafter was pout. But Horace wouldn't hear of it. C'mon son, he said, let's do what we can to make things better. They worked out together at a local gym, shot baskets for hours, and enlisted the help of Newport Beach shooting specialist Tom Marumoto.
It paid off. Marmet improved quickly and earned a starting position. He averaged 13 points and 7.4 rebounds through the regular season. Since the playoffs started, he's at 14 points, 8.6 rebounds and is shooting a team-leading 59.5% from the field.
Being Marmet's No. 1 fan, Horace has been rewarding his son with postgame surprises during the playoffs. After the first game, Marmet unwrapped a new shirt and pair of shorts. Same after the second game. After the third, Horace handed his son $50 and pointed him toward the mall, where Marmet scored two hats and a T-shirt.
But Marmet is supported, not spoiled. He may be the second-leading scorer for the No. 1-ranked team in the state, but he still has to come home and clean the kitty litter box.
He's low-key and humble, even though he has received enough praise to send most 17-year-old egos into the stratosphere. After all, as a 6-foot-5 junior forward with superb ability and smarts, he's bound to be a wanted man next year on the college recruiting scene, right?
Marmet merely shrugs.
"I can be cocky," he says, trying to sound convincing. "Sometimes, when I score, I throw my arms up. Or when I rebound, I usually make this sound, like, arrrrgh !"
Anyway, Marmet says, his father usually makes enough noise for both of them. During summer league games, when the gym's emptiness makes for Grand Canyon-like echoes, Horace's voice is forever bouncing off the walls. "He's like, 'Play better defense, Marmet!' or 'Don't lose your man, Marmet!' " his son says. "I'm like, 'Dad, please be quiet. We have a game here.'
"But I always like to make him proud."
The feeling's mutual. Horace has been working two jobs lately so he can earn the extra money to pay for the two of them to go to Spain this summer for a youth basketball trip. Time is precious, he says. With only another year of high school, Marmet probably won't be hanging around the house much longer. Once he goes off to college, the telephone might be their only connection.
By then, every phone bill will be worth it.