Willie Dotson III — known to many as “Coach” or “Big Willie” — touched hundreds of lives before he died suddenly on Saturday.
Dotson, of Lawrence, coached kids in multiple sports, but he was most passionate about basketball, according to a GoFundMe page created Sunday to help his family with medical and funeral expenses.
He started a sixth-grade basketball tournament team, Primetime Ballerz, which quickly expanded into initiatives that included kids of all ages.
“Other coaches cut players, but Willie simply added more teams to make room for the dozens of boys and girls who wanted to play for him,” Andrea Albright, of Lawrence, wrote in the GoFundMe tribute to Dotson.
“No matter the cost, Willie gave each and every child an opportunity to be the best player and person they could be.”
Dotson also worked as a paraprofessional at Billy Mills Middle School.
“Willie used basketball as a tool to teach – to lift up kids who might otherwise feel left behind and to push all of his players to achieve off the court as well,” Albright wrote. “Willie became a mentor to many and was a tireless supporter of each and every one of his boys.”
And after graduation in 2020, many of those players had earned scholarships and spots on college teams, Albright wrote. Each one was heading off to college.
“In the end, Willie achieved his ultimate goal: to see his boys succeed.”
Dotson is survived by his wife, Nicole Dotson, and children Willie IV, Angela and Tracy, among many other family members and people across the Lawrence community.
“Of course we all thought we would have many years to repay Willie for the love and support he gave so freely,” Albright wrote. “That time was cut short, however, and now we would like to show our gratitude by raising funds to help Willie’s family.”
Donations can be made via the GoFundMe page, to @Nicole-Dotson-7 on Venmo or to $NicoleDot on Cash App.
Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.