“And I saw some of those [college] tuitions and said: ‘No, I can’t have my mom paying that. I’m going to start taking this seriously,’” Williams said Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after signing with Michigan.
It was not the day that Williams had envisioned. The Gonzaga forward woke up around 8 a.m. for one of his online classes. After that was over, he finished his homework so he would have the entire afternoon free. Around 1 p.m., he signed his national letter-of-intent and got on a Zoom call with close friends, family and former coaches to celebrate. He followed that with a public Instagram Live announcement, made with his parents by his side.
Williams was one of several local basketball stars to make things official Wednesday as part of a unique national signing day devoid of traditional gatherings and celebrations. In mid-March, the NCAA instituted an emergency recruiting dead period in an effort to help combat the novel coronavirus and follow social distancing guidelines. That stoppage came to an end Wednesday, and this new signing period will run until Aug. 1 for all Division I sports.
While Wednesday marked the first day of basketball’s normal signing period, many of the area’s top players signed with the school of their choice during the early signing period in November, just as the high school season was getting underway.
These spring signees are celebrating at a more uncertain time in the sports world. For Williams, this precarious reality might mean that he wasn’t able to gather with family and friends in Gonzaga’s cafeteria for a signing ceremony, but it also makes him more grateful for the opportunities at his disposal.
“Having committed back in January, it’s just a blessing to not have to worry about it,” Williams said. “I definitely feel for those seniors who thought they’d be playing AAU right now, getting looks or taking visits.”
It was not an easy road to this place of comfort for the four-star recruit. He received his first offer, from North Carolina State, when he was in the ninth grade, and a steady stream of interest followed. He committed to Georgetown in July 2019, excited for the future but later feeling like his decision had been a bit rushed.
“I just had to think of it as a clean slate,” Williams said. “I told myself: ‘You’re still going to be going to college. There’s still plenty of interest. Just take your time.’ ”
But things moved quickly after Williams’s announcement. The next day, Juwan Howard came to Gonzaga to see him. The Michigan coach and former NBA star impressed Williams immediately. Already in the middle of his senior season at that point, he decided to schedule two visits for the month of December: Michigan and UCLA. He took a trip to Ann Arbor first, and he committed Jan. 1.
When the news broke, Williams faced a different kind of social media deluge.
“Oh, man, they have the craziest fans. I’m not going to lie,” Williams said. “They showed love.”
He is not the only WCAC star headed to Ann Arbor. DeMatha big man Hunter Dickinson, ranked as the No. 7 center in the country, is also committed to the Wolverines. He did not sign Wednesday but is expected to do so soon.
Dickinson’s high school running mate, Stags guard Earl Timberlake, was the other big local name to sign Wednesday, making things official with Miami. The crafty wing, ranked as the top recruit in the state of Maryland, had been committed to the Hurricanes since November.
“It’s a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Timberlake said. “Now I can just get ready for college, get ready for ACC basketball. I’m ready to work.”
Among the other prospects to sign Wednesday were McNamara guard Aaliyah Pitts (Virginia), Carroll forward Tegra Izay (La Salle) and St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes guard Jared Cross (Army).
Read more on high school sports: