Grant Williams’ decision to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft paid off last Thursday night. The former Tennessee star went 22nd overall to the Boston Celtics after putting together a legendary career in Knoxville.
His decision was expected at the end of the year, but analysts and fans were split on whether or not Williams should keep his name in after the process. Clearly the information and feedback that he received was spot on.
“Honestly I went into the process open minded,” Williams told the Boston media. “That’s how I took it every year. But I wanted to be able to have my degree in my pocket before I left school. We didn’t really talk about it much during the year. It wasn’t really my focus. My focus was winning games and that’s kind of where we had that connection.”
Tennessee ripped through the regular season, posting a new school record for consecutive wins and spending nearly a month as the AP’s No. 1 team. Williams was the leading scorer for that group, pouring in nearly 19 points per night.
The NBA chatter ramped up during the spring, but according to Williams, it wasn’t something that was actively discussed with Rick Barnes.
“Coach Barnes, I think he kind of loved the fact that I never brought it up or was thinking about it,” Williams said. “I was just focused on every day and after the year we sat down and talked about it.”
Barnes went through a similar situation last season with Admiral Schofield, who declared, but then returned before the deadline. This season, Barnes saw both Williams and junior point guard Jordan Bone declare — with both opting to keep their name in the draft.
“(Barnes) tried to give me the best advice possible,” Williams said of his former coach. “He was there for me and I think him for that. He never tried to put any pressure on me. He’s a guy that wanted me do the best decision for myself, because either way it was going to be a good decision. He trusted me because I trusted him.”
It was a good decision. For an undersized post player, former three-star recruit to go 22nd overall, that’s impossible to pass up. It speaks to Grant’s work ethic and Barnes’ ability to develop players.
Now after landing with one of the most successful organizations in the league, Williams’ focus will now shift towards fitting in with his new team.
“I feel like a guy that will translate, but I have a lot more to my game than people may know,” Williams said of his NBA future. “I have a versatile game too. To be able to play in the interior, it’s not really what the league is nowadays, but having that in your toolbox is always necessary. Because when the shot clock or when the team may need a basket, you go to things you’re strong at, you’re comfortable with. So I’ll be able to use that as well as things I’ve developed over time.”