CHICAGO -- There really wasn't any other high school William Gates considered after graduating from the eighth grade.
Gates chose the same school his father played basketball at, graduated from and gained national fame as a subject of an award-winning documentary. Gates picked St. Joseph.
"It was always St. Joseph," Gates said. "There was no other school. It was always going to be St. Joseph. I grew up there."
William Gates Jr. was born nearly five months after the Oct. 21, 1994 Chicago premiere of "Hoop Dreams," a documentary about two basketball players from Chicago's inner city chasing success in the shadows of Isiah Thomas at St. Joseph in Westchester. The film featured Arthur Agee from the South Side and Gates' father, William Sr., from Cabrini-Green, over six years of their career during high school and into college.
Now 16 years after the movie was released, William Gates Jr. is pursuing his own hoop dreams as a starting sophomore guard for the Chargers in his first varsity season.
In his review, film critic Roger Ebert called the movie "one of the great moviegoing experiences of my lifetime."
The movie not only featured Junior's father, but his grandparents, Willie and Emma, his mother Catherine, his older sister Alicia and his uncle Curtis.
"The first time I saw it, I think I was in the second or third grade," Junior said. "I saw it, and I thought, 'Wow. My dad's in a movie and my dad's playing basketball in a movie."'
Junior estimated that he has seen the film nearly 10 times. Junior, who is known as "Spoodie" to his family, is playing for his father's former coach, Gene Pingatore, who became the state's winningest boys basketball coach nearly two years ago. Pingatore is in his 42nd season and owns a career record of 863-287.
Junior is only the second son of a former Chargers player to play for Pingatore, following Tony Freeman Jr., who graduated in 2005. Gates Sr. graduated from St. Joseph in 1991 and would go on to play at Marquette. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute and has been the senior minister for the past seven years at Living Faith Community Church in his old neighborhood.
Though the last of Cabrini-Green's high-rise housing projects closed recently, Rev. Gates reminds people that there are plenty of low-income residents remaining in the area, living in low rises similar to the ones where he grew up in.
"A lot of people watched (the movie) and think it's still real. They still experience all the love, the joy, the sadness. But when the cameras stop rolling, things didn't end," Senior said.
Agee appeared in an unofficial sequel to "Hoop Dreams" called "Hoop Reality," released in 2007. Agee promoted his own clothing line and still keeps in touch with Gates Sr.
"Arthur is doing well," Senior said. "His life is still a struggle, like everybody else."
Senior's high school career at St. Joseph was plagued by a knee injury, which led to some frayed moments between Pingatore and Gates in the film. But it is unlikely Junior would be attending St. Joseph if Pingatore wasn't there.
"Other schools sat down and we talked with them," Senior said. "There were a lot of things that played a huge role in it. (He's there) primarily because coach is still there. I trust coach. Academically, I like what St. Joseph's did for me. William has walked into St. Joseph light years ahead of me."
Junior is the youngest starter and one of two sophomores on the roster for the Chargers' (1-6) first Catholic League team. Junior played on the sophomore team last season while St. Joseph (22-7 last season) finished as East Suburban Catholic Conference runner-up to Benet.
Unlike both Tony Freemans and Gates Sr., who were four-year varsity starters, Junior will be able to play only three varsity seasons.
"I don't think we talked about that," Pingatore said. "It's tough enough for him to be here playing in the shadow of his father. I don't want to put any pressure on him."
Junior wore his father's No. 22 jersey on the sophomore team, but is wearing No. 14 this season. No. 22 was already taken by starting junior forward Cameron Harvey.
"I told him a number is a number," Senior said.
Senior did not push Junior, 6-foot, 160 pounds, toward basketball. Junior could be considered a late-bloomer. He did not take basketball seriously until the seventh grade. Junior played youth baseball instead.
"At first, I didn't want him to play (basketball)," Senior said. "Everything in my heart said, 'I want him to play.' I know he wanted to do it too."
Senior attends every one of Junior's games and is amazed at what his son has been able to do in only 2 1/2 years of organized basketball. Junior's main position with the Chargers is shooting guard.
"Dad has told me to always stay aggressive, try to be myself and not live up to what he has done," Junior said. "He has told me to make my own path."
Once Junior became passionate about basketball, Junior would wake his father at 6 a.m. in order to get some basketball practices in. Junior has even seen a couple of Marquette basketball games with his dad.
"It's very exciting. The first time I heard them call out his name, I really thought it was me," Senior said. "It was weird. You hear your name called out, but they would not say William Gates Jr.; just William Gates. I can't be any more proud of what William has done, not just with basketball. One of the things I love about my son is he has a great character; great heart. He is headed in the right direction. He's respectful and listens to his coaches and teammates."
William Sr. and Catherine have been married for 18 years. Alicia is now 21 years old and Junior's younger brother, Jalen, 12, also loves to play basketball. The couple's youngest son, Marques, is 7 years old.
"Hoop Dreams" was named to the National Film Registry in 2005 and was named Best Picture by the Chicago Film Critics Association in 1995. The film won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival before it was released.
"It's a great movie," Junior said. "It's inspiring."
-- Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://www.suntimes.com/index