In this weekend’s Charlotte Hoops Challenge at Myers Park High, junior forward Grant Williams and the Providence Day basketball team will play against two quality teams with talented big men.
In the first game Friday, the Chargers (0-2) will face Hamilton Heights (Tenn.) and center Abdul Hakim Ado, the No. 23 junior recruit in the country, according to ESPN. In the second, they’ll play Hough and senior forward Luke Maye, a North Carolina commit.
This will be nothing new for Williams.
In the first game of the season, he scored 18 points in a 67-60 loss to Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, which is nationally ranked and has the No. 16 senior recruit in the country in center Thomas Bryant. Bryant had 15 points.
“He was going up against Thomas Bryant … he went head-to-head against him and probably outplayed him,” said Rick Lewis, who runs Phenom Hoop Report and saw the game Nov. 14 at the Phenom Hoops Showcase. “He competes, he has fun and he’s just fun to watch. And you just don’t see that very often.”
Williams scored 23 points in a 60-58 loss to High Point Wesleyan Christian, another nationally ranked team, and forward Harry Giles, the No. 3 junior in the country. Giles had 21.
Williams, who is young for his grade, will turn 16 Sunday. He relishes the opportunity to play against top competition.
“My favorite type of game is playing against somebody that I’ll … go back and forth with,” he said. “I would love to play against a guy like Harry or Thomas every night, but you know that’s not possible. So it’s exciting when you get to play guys like that every once in a while.”
While he’s happy with how he played, Williams is not happy about the way the games ended. Providence Day had the lead in the final minutes of both games before losing.
“It still doesn’t matter about my stats because we lost,” Williams said. “If I had a 40-point game and won, then I would be happy, but even if that type of game comes while losing, it’s still a loss.”
Williams is 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds, and he has basketball pedigree. His father, Gilbert, played at Minnesota State for a team that was recently inducted into the school’s hall of fame. His brother Gabon played at West Charlotte High and is now a freshman at Johnson C. Smith.
He has been recruited mainly by mid-major schools, but Lewis, whose website ranks Williams as the No. 14 junior in the state, expects that to change soon.
“I think his stock is really going to go through the roof as more people see him play,” Lewis said. “If you continue to play at a high level against high-level players, that should mean you’re a high-level player too.”
He’s comfortable in the post but also can take defenders outside, driving, hitting jump shots and even the occasional 3-pointer.
This season, he has hit 85 percent of his two-point shots (17-of-20) and is 1-of-7 from 3. In the game against High Point Wesleyan, Williams was 9-for-9 on two-pointers. He also is averaging 6.5 rebounds per game.
“He’s showed me a lot of maturity in his shot selection in the first two games,” Providence Day coach Brian Field said. “I think his high-field goal percentage speaks to the fact that he’s taking good shots.”
Williams carries a 3.6 GPA. He plays several instruments, including the piano, guitar and clarinet, and attended Northwest School of the Arts before coming to Providence Day as a freshman. He also plays chess.
He shares the post with fellow juniors Isaac Johnson, who is averaging 5.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, and Joshua Howard, who is averaging 14.5 points and eight rebounds.
“They play very well together,” Field said. “It’s a nice problem to have three bigs on the court at the same time.”
Williams said he thinks he and the Chargers have shown they can play with some of the best teams in the country.
Field hopes those experiences will help Providence Day later in the season.
“As a program, we’re trying to take the next step,” Field said. “We’ve had some success locally the last couple of years winning the conference, we’ve had some success regionally last year going down to Atlanta and beating a good team (Alpharetta’s St. Francis).
“So the next step for us is trying to compete for a state championship and also compete on a national level. And to do it, you’ve got to play those teams.”