Charlotte Hornets veteran Marvin Williams knows there’s no way he was ready for the NBA straight out of high school.
However, Williams endorses the NBA’s proposal to return to a system where U.S. high school players could make themselves available for the NBA draft, rather than waiting an additional year under the current rule.
William turned pro in 2005 following a season at North Carolina that included a national championship. Right as that path felt for him, he says if a player feels ready to leap from high school to the NBA, he should have the option to work. But he cautions that word - “work” - is something a young player and his family need to strongly think about once that preps-to-pros opportunity resumes.
“You’re 18 years old. Your body is not nearly as mature as it needs to be. Your mind, for that matter, is not nearly as mature as it needs to be,” Williams told the Observer Friday. “You’d go from probably living in your mom and dad’s house to living on your own clear across the country.
“I can’t imagine going from living in Bremerton, Wash., (Williams’ hometown) to being drafted by Miami 3,000 miles away from home. You’d have no friends there and probably one or two family members” moving with you.
Even so, William said some prodigies, Duke freshman Zion Williamson for example, should have the option to enter the NBA at 18 because of the life-changing opportunity being drafted high represents.
“It’s a great chance for some kids out there to really change life for their families,” Williams said. “You never know what someone’s life situation is. If they really have the chance to change their family’s life” then that option shouldn’t automatically be deferred by the system.
After a season at North Carolina, Williams was drafted second overall in 2005 by the Atlanta Hawks. He illustrated that life-changing impact with his own story: Williams paid for his brother to attend college and made it possible for his parents to eventually quit their jobs.
High school players were still eligible to enter the draft when Williams chose instead to play in college. He said there might have been 10 players nationally in his high school class good enough that they would have considered turning pro. Two high school players - Martell Webster and Andrew Bynum - were top-10 picks in 2005.
Williams said the physical difference alone between elite high school players and NBA veterans is huge (although he added rookies now - such as the Hornets’ Miles Bridges - are more physically developed than ever).
“You’re playing against grown men. no longer kids your age,” Williams said. “You might be best-of-the-best in your high school class, but” that doesn’t equate.
Williams said what he experienced at Chapel Hill for a year - not only the basketball refinement, but the socialization college provided - is something he never would trade away. He said that probably contributed to his longevity, in his 14th NBA season.
He gives much credit in that regard to North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
“I benefited tremendously from the time I spent in Chapel HIll.,” Williams recalled. “The things that coach Williams taught us about being professional: being on time - you have study hall now, class now, practice now. In high school, your mom wakes you up at 6:30 and tells you to go. No more of that.
“It was wearing a suit and tie to games, something coach Williams made us do. How to tie a tie, something you might take for granted when you are 17 years old. Money management. You learn a great, great deal by going to college. Looking back, I can’t imagine trying to make that jump at 17 years old to the NBA.”
So Williams was asked what advice he’d give a high school player, or that player’s parents, if this rule changes and the option to turn pro opens.
“Basketball is fun when you’re a kid, trying to be the best. It’s still fun when you’re a pro, but now you have to think of this as a job!” Williams concluded. “These are grown men (you’re competing against) with two kids at home. That’s different.”
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