Troy Williams will be here in two years. Bank on it. Here being the NCAA basketball tournament’s Sweet 16 weekend.
Slashing, scoring, perhaps winning.
The overriding question: Which jersey will Williams be wearing?
A 6-foot-6 small forward at Phoebus High, Williams narrowed his college options Wednesday to Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgetown, eliminating Virginia Tech and Villanova.
No surprise there, and no offense to Tech and Villanova. They simply couldn’t match Kentucky and North Carolina’s heritage, or Georgetown’s family connections.
With another year of high school ahead, Williams has ample time to ponder his decision. But he tells the Daily Press’ Dave Johnson that he will reveal his choice “between mid-April and early may.”
As brain-teasers go, this isn’t exactly Sudoku.
Williams’ Georgetown ties are oft-chronicled. His aunt, Terri Williams-Flournoy, coaches the Hoyas’ nationally ranked women’s team. His uncle, summer basketball sage Boo Williams, steered the two best players he’s ever coached, Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson, to Georgetown, where both became All-Americans.
But Troy’s raw athleticism and preference for rapid-fire offense do not mesh with coach John Thompson III’s Princeton-style attack. Troy will tell you as much, and although Georgetown is closer to home than the other two finalists, he did not attend a game there this season — he was in the house for the Hoyas’ midnight madness opening of preseason practice.
Conversely, Troy, with Boo in tow, traveled to games at Kentucky and North Carolina, Sweet 16 perennials and the two winningest programs in Division I history. Coincidentally – or was it a conspiracy?! -- both teams’ small forwards excelled in those games.
On Dec. 21, Troy saw North Carolina sophomore Harrison Barnes score a season-high 26 points in an 82-63 victory over visiting Texas. Few, if any, coaches push tempo like Carolina’s Roy Williams, and his roster includes two of Troy’s former summer teammates: sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall and freshman reserve forward James Michael McAdoo.
Many other Boo Williams alumni have played for the Tar Heels, including J.R. Reid, Jason Capel, Ronald Curry and Brian Bersticker.
A second-team All-American this season, Barnes figures to exit for the NBA. But North Carolina’s four-man 2012 recruiting class includes small forward J.P. Tokoto from Wisconsin.
Kentucky has landed three incoming freshmen for next season, none a small forward. The Wildcats’ current wing forward, freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, had season-bests of 24 points and 19 rebounds in a 69-62 New Year’s Eve victory over Louisville, an event Troy witnessed in Rupp Arena along with Jay-Z, Ashley Judd (Mrs. Dario Franchitti) and about a dozen NBA scouts.
Boo Williams’ program has little history with Kentucky — one of his imports, Patrick Patterson of Huntington, W.Va., played for the Wildcats — but Boo doesn’t hide his admiration for John Calipari, UK’s third-year coach, and he and Troy were mesmerized by the atmosphere at Kentucky-Louisville.
Sure, Calipari pushes the envelope in recruiting. That hardly makes him unique.
And yes, his first two Final Fours, with Massachusetts in 1996 and Memphis in 2008, were voided for NCAA rules violations. But the NCAA did not find Calipari personally culpable, though he certainly should be held accountable for infractions committed on his watch.
But like North Carolina’s Williams, Calipari and Kentucky churn out more first-round NBA draft choices than John Grisham does page-turners.
(Both coaches trekked to Hampton recently to watch Troy practice or play. Or was it merely to pay homage?)
The 2010 draft’s opening round included a record five Wildcats, Patterson and No. 1 overall pick John Wall among them. In 2005, shortly after North Carolina won its first national championship under Roy Williams, four Tar Heels went in the first round, led by Marvin Williams at No. 2 and Raymond Felton at No. 5.
Depending on the decisions of underclassmen, Kentucky and Carolina could combine for as many as nine first-rounders this June. Wildcats freshman power forward Anthony Davis is the presumptive top pick, with Barnes and Kidd-Gilchrist surely in the top 10. Marshall, McAdoo and teammates John Henson and Tyler Zeller could join the procession, along with Kentucky’s Terrence Jones and Marquis Teague.
Troy Williams has first-round aspirations, too, the sooner the better. Kentucky and Carolina have no issue there.
Of the programs’ nine potential opening-round picks, Zeller is the lone senior, Henson the sole junior.
Is Troy an early-exit talent?
The hunch here is that Bluegrass faithful will have front-row seats as the answer emerges.
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