College, High School / Jan 19, 2012 / 12:00 pm

Dime Q&A: Jay Williams Tells All

Jay Williams

Jay Williams

Watching Jay Williams address the completely enrapt New Hampton Prep basketball team late Sunday night at the Hoophall Classic, it was clear he was firmly in his element. Basketball has obviously always been a big part of Williams’ life, but you could make a case he’s never been quite as immersed as he is now.

As an ESPN college basketball analyst, Williams splits his time between calling games and working on studio shows, while also commentating for the network’s rapidly expanding interest in high school ball. The latter assignment gives him the opportunity to take part in one of his favorite pastimes: mentoring young athletes. There isn’t a player on any level that doesn’t have the utmost respect for the former No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft, and he commonly takes time to pull players aside and offer a few words of wisdom.

Away from the court, Williams’ passion for giving back manifests itself in his charitable endeavors, which are focused on providing a positive influence for youngsters who lack a reliable support system.

“Everything’s going great with that,” said Williams. “I’m still very much involved with my charity, Rising Stars. I’m spending a lot of time trying to create after-school programs in the boroughs, shadowing and mentoring programs, and trying to be impactful on young kids’ lives.”

We caught up with Williams at halftime of Bishop Gorman’s win over Dematha on Monday to discuss his thoughts on Hoophall, which college teams most impress him, the advice he gives to up-and-coming players and his recent move to Miami.

*** *** ***

Dime: What players have impressed you so far at Hoophall?
Jay Williams: Shabazz Muhammad is on a different level. I love his ability to attack the rim, and something I’ve seen that’s a huge improvement from last year is his jump shot. When he’s able to extend you defensively with his ability to shoot the ball, you’re like Play-Doh in his hands. He can shoot, he can drive, he has a post-up game, and he’s a hell of a slasher.

I’m excited to see Jabari Parker later on today. Kaleb Tarczewski, he played extremely well. Brewster Academy’s Jakarr Sampson, he’s so athletic with some of the things he was doing in warmups the other day. I was very disappointed he wasn’t in the dunk contest last night. Some school’s going to be lucky, given that he decommitted from St. John’s.

Dime: How does covering high school games help you with working on college basketball?
JW: It helps a lot. The more you do high school basketball, the more you can talk during a game about what a coach has coming in next year and some of the voids they need to fill, and the things they need to work on as a team.

But another one of the things I love about high school basketball is these players are still so raw. For a guy like Shabazz Muhammad, on the collegiate level, just watching him play a couple times, I know in a scouting report I’m sending him right every single time. And every time he jumps and he finishes at the rim, I’m just going to overwhelm the left side of his body and make him finish with his right hand. I’ve still yet to see him do that. But when you get to the collegiate level, every game is televised, everybody’s writing about it, NBA scouts are talking about you and everyone is breaking down your strengths and weaknesses. So he’s able to take advantage of the fact that all these players don’t get the chance to watch each other play that much.

Dime: In terms of college, what schools have impressed you the most?
JW: Of course, you have to talk about Syracuse. They’re the deepest team in the country, and they’ve had a couple of close games, like against Marquette, but they’ve been able to push through. The person that’s made the biggest emergence to me is Dion Waiters. He’s like a Jason Terry coming off the bench. Everybody knows he should start, but he’s averaging 13 points, and playing the game with the moxie that he possesses lets you know about the character of the young man.

I think a team like Kentucky, they still haven’t had Terrence Jones at his best. And Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been doing his thing. He doesn’t have the prettiest shot in the world, but he just finds a way to score and get things done. Anthony Davis, he does a great job. Marquis Teague has his ups and downs as a freshman point guard, but they’re a really deep team.

And I’m so glad Tom Crean and Indiana Basketball are back. Watching guys like Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, who’s kind of their pillar, they’re a heck of a basketball team as well.

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  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    Great interview, Bryan.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/djlocdog Loc

    Glad to see dudes life turned out well! Shame he never got to put a stamp on the L

  • lifep

    Always liked J. Will. When people who don’t know J Will ask me about his game, I always tell them to imagine D Rose about an inch or two shorter…

  • JM

    Dude is a class Act. Glad he found his dream job. I’m sure it took a while to let go of the NBA dream and not get lost in regretting his bad decision.

    Ultimately, I think he would have been the 2nd best Duke pro behind Grant Hill if not for the accident. It’s a shame that both of those guys had career ending or debilitating injuries. I hope Kyrie doesn’t follow suit. If he stays healthy, probably becomes best NBA player to put on the Duke uniform.

    Still remember that comeback vs Maryland in College Park in the last minute of the game. He was unbelievable.

  • http://www.psychodrama.com Chicagorilla

    @lifep

    Derrick Rose…an inch or two shorter? Have you have lost your f^cking mind?
    Jay Williams was a bust. His first year in the NBA, after spending 3 years in college, he sucked balls. The bulls tried force feeding him minutes and the ball (even though Jamal Crawford outplayed him in the pre-season) because he was the #2 pick.

    But you know what, if not for Jay Williams, the Bulls would’ve never gotten Derrick Rose. So for that, i thank him.

  • http://www.sportsangle.com Bryan Horowitz

    Personally, my feeling is that Williams would have rounded into a good NBA player, at the absolute least. If you look at his last couple weeks of games that season, it seems like he was really starting to pick it up. That said, everything happens for a reason. Jay’s good at what he does, he works hard at it, and he’s carved out a definitive niche as an influential and positive voice in the sport.

  • http://www.psychodrama.com Chicagorilla

    @Bryan

    I dont know about that. He had 3-4 games all season where he reached double figures in assist.
    He also shot 40%FG/32% 3pt/64%FT. So not only didn’t he have an elite jump shot, he didn’t have elite athleticism, was average in size, and he wasn’t a very high IQ player.
    Through no fault of his own, he was overhyped. He shouldn’t have been a #2 pick, not in this draft.

    But to each his own i guess. Like I wrote earlier, i’m just happy it led to Derrick Roses arrival in Chicago.

  • Taj

    One of the best college ball players I’ve seen! Good words from Jay Will!

  • BiGShoTBoB

    @Chicagorilla sometimes all it takes is for a team to force feed you the ball. Eventially he would have gotten better. If you remember that Chicago squad had a young Ty Chandler and Eddy Curry. All they were missing was a point guard. The thing that was special about Jay Williams was his speed. Probably was as fast as Ty Lawson is now. With some time to get comfortable with his jumper I think he would have been a pretty good player, not on the level of D-Rose like somebody said up there but still pretty good. To bad after the accident all that speed was gone.

  • CStrong

    @JM

    I couldn’t agree with you more…Jays an absolute class act.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/DARKWINGpro DarkWing Productions

    @JM

    I was at that game – one of my saddest moments as a terp. I hated Puke and still do, but I secretly gave him his props. I dunno about in the pros, but back in college, NO ONE could stay in front of him. He was more quick than fast, but solidly built too.

    @BiGShoTBoB

    I have to agree, he would’ve been an above average player at least.

  • http://brokejumper.com/ Brokejumper

    Cafe con leche in the morning at south beach reading the box scores, that is what it’s all about.