By Norma Adams-Wade
Malaika Warren unexpectedly became a single mom as a 17-year-old high school senior basketball star. Many who admired her athletic prowess worried that her promising journey toward college basketball stardom was over.
It was not.
Warren graduated from Lincoln H. S. in Dallas in 1990, earned a four-year basketball scholarship, and went on to set women’s basketball fame on its heels, 1990-1994, at Langston University, a 125-year-old HBCU in Langston, Oklahoma.
Her son, Willie D. Warren, was born five days before her 18th birthday in 1989. While she practiced on the basketball court at Langston, many friends and fellow players took turns babysitting her son in his stroller on the sidelines. They continued to help when Willie D. became a toddler on the sidelines, gleefully playing with a ball, copycatting his mother’s moves. Mom Warren set such records as a 6’1” center at Langston that after she graduated, the school held a ceremony, retiring her celebrated #44 jersey number.
Fast forward more than a decade and see son Willie D. as he follows his mother’s stardom. He became a record-setting basketball celebrity at North Crowley H. S. in Fort Worth while his mother worked as a school coach nearby. Continuing his ascent, the 6’4” point guard made basketball headlines at Oklahoma University and was drafted by the NBA’s LA Clippers in 2010. After a series of injuries, he left the NBA and joined overseas leagues where he continues to play today.
In October this year, mom Warren was joyously summoned back to her college alma mater where she was one of eight athletes inducted into the Langston University Athletic Hall of Fame. The inductees included four member of the 2005 women’s 4X100 Relay Team, two track and field runners, two men’s basketball team members, and mom Warren – the only women’s basketball inductee among the 2022 lineup.
“I tried not to cry, but that was an epic fail,” she commented in a Facebook post. “So many emotions. This was a GREAT event. LU embraced this young mother back then and did not disappoint. …So many people had counted me out.”
Mom Warren’s birthday was exactly seven days after the induction. On Facebook, she reflected the delight of family and friends present, including her son and grandchildren.
“From a Hall of Fame weekend to my …birthday!!” Mom Warren exclaimed. “…33 years ago, on this day, I was a fresh and new young mother, and it was the best day of my life. And (now) I’m spending it with the (son) who made me a better person. Our life is NOT perfect, but we are perfect together!!”
Mother and son’s records leave a legacy. At Lincoln in Dallas, mom Malaika set records as All-American with National Association Intercollegiate Athletics. At Langston she held the women’s basketball single-season record for points (23.2) and rebounds (12.6) per game. She was NAIA all-American both as a college freshman and in later years. She was District-9 Player of the Year. She also was second All-Time in Langston’s Women Basketball history in career points (1,954) and rebounds (1,101).
Son Warren’s journey has been impressive but not smooth. He helped lead his high school team to a 38-1 record and the school’s first 5A Boys State Basketball title in 2008. He won All-American and Player of the Year at North Crowley, and sports recruiters listed him as the nation’s No. 4 point guard and No. 10 player. He was Big 12 Freshman of the Year at OU, and later came the NBA draft. The trail of injuries that started at Oklahoma and continued with the Clippers, ultimately lead to him playing with various overseas basketball leagues in locations including Venezuela, Taiwan, Hungary, Italy, China, and Qatar.
When her son was very young, she became Malaika Warren Frazier during a short marriage that did not last, and she reclaimed her maiden name. The closeknit mother-son duo continues to support each other’s sports ventures. For a while, son Warren wore the same #32 high school jersey number that his mother had – a symbolic link between them. In college, mom Warren wore that #44 that later was retired in her honor.
“Everywhere I would go, people would say, ‘That’s Malaika’s son,’ ” Willie D. said in one college media interview. “Hearing how good she was, it made me want to do something…”
He had a tough decision to make in 2010 about whether to give up his final two seasons of eligibility as an OU Sooner and go pro. He turned to his usual confidant.
“I talked to my Mom extensively the last few weeks,” the son said in a media interview at the time. “And I feel like the best move for me is to make the jump.”
Many hurdles have not stopped mother or son. Mom Warren is a 27-year veteran educator in different DFW school districts and currently is girl’s athletic coordinator at Summer Creek Middle School in the Crowley school district. Aside from his 12 years with the NBA and overseas leagues, son Warren also sometimes coaches with various athletic programs and is a budding entrepreneur with small businesses under Warren Enterprises, LLC.
A few years ago, he paid this poetic birthday tribute to his mother: “I have an angel in disguise who’s with me through thick and thin…been down for me whenever in life I lose or win…”
For her part, mom Malaika says: ‘I’m just a girl who let basketball lead the way to a college degree and career…I would not have wanted to do it any other way.”