Charlotte Hornets

Can Charlotte’s Grant Williams overcome that ‘tweener’ label in NBA draft chase?

Tennessee’s Grant Williams at NBA draft combine

Tennessee’s Grant Williams on being at the NBA draft combine in Chicago.
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Tennessee’s Grant Williams on being at the NBA draft combine in Chicago.

The fat kid jokes, back when Grant Williams played at Charlotte’s Providence Day School, no longer apply.

“Back in high school, we used to get on him a bit,” recalled Devon Dotson, who went on from Providence Day to play point guard at Kansas.

“But then, he’d put me in a headlock and sit on me to shut me up.”

Williams would be first to admit he was a butterball back then. No more. He showed up at this week’s NBA draft combine with 5 percent body fat. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, he’s 20 pounds lighter than when arrived at Tennessee three years ago.

How did he get there? What did he cut out?

“Those processed carbohydrates, like pasta, that overload you.,” said Williams, who won SEC Player of the Year twice with the Vols before turning pro this spring.

“I (want to) go lean so I’m trying to go down on those, but occasionally you need those to fuel the body.”

Williams graduated from Tennessee in three years and is at the NBA Combine, looking to secure a spot in the June 20 draft.

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He took the risk — a lot of combine invitees don’t — of playing in the 5-on-5 games. That didn’t go well in his first game Thursday, when he shot 2-of-13 from the field and 0-of-5 from 3-point range.

At his size, Williams needs to demonstrate some perimeter skills to translate to the NBA. He shot just 32.6 percent from the college 3-point line last season, when he averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Defensive versatility?

Williams said Thursday he doesn’t regret agreeing to play in the combine games.

“I’m not just trying to show I can shoot, I’m showing I can defend,” Williams said. “Be out there and be that guy who was there to win, and cheering on his teammates.

“I’m hard on myself. I know that defensively I could have been a little better contesting shots. Being analytical — like I normally am — I play different guys certain ways, and that bit me a little bit.”

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Long road

Williams has interviewed already with eight NBA teams (the Hornets weren’t among them.) That Williams is on the NBA’s radar shows how far he has come already.

He was headed to Yale before Tennessee offered him a scholarship. He says he was “very close” to committing to Yale, but wanted to test himself athletically at the top level of college basketball.

He hopes the success of late of players of his body type — he mentioned the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green and Houston Rockets’ P.J. Tucker — work to the NBA having an open mind to his potential.

“Guys like Draymond Green have so helped guys like me — so-called ‘tweeners’ — make the next step,” Williams said.

“It’s not just about how you shoot the basketball. It’s also a matter if you can defend at the other end, and that’s what I’m trying to show.”

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