Stanford was one of the first schools to vigorously recruit basketball standout Ziaire Williams when he was a promising sophomore two years ago, and the Cardinal came out victorious Sunday when Williams announced his college choice via video.
“At the end of the day, I can only choose one school,” Williams said before opening his USA basketball jacket and revealing a Stanford sweatshirt. His mother wore a Stanford sweatshirt and rang a bell, and his father stepped forward wearing a Stanford T-shirt and carrying a cigar.
The Cardinal beat out UCLA, USC, North Carolina and Arizona for the 6-foot-9 Williams, who was The Times’ player of the year this season while helping Chatsworth Sierra Canyon win the Southern Section Open Division championship.
“You guys believed in me more than I believed myself,” Williams said in thanking recruiters. “I thank you for giving me the confidence I never had but always needed.”
Trust in the Lord with all your heart— Ziaire Williams (@therealZiaire) April 12, 2020
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight
1000% CONFIDENT AND COMMITTED‼️❤️🌲 pic.twitter.com/kYrtDuK5Bd
Stanford assistant Adam Cohen invested many hours recruiting Williams, and Stanford coach Jerod Haase made his share of trips to Los Angeles.
“They were consistent with him,” Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier said. “They pushed basketball along with academics, which is a big deal for Ziaire and his family.”
Williams was considered the best uncommitted senior in the nation. He took his time coming to a decision because, “If I would have known, I would have committed a long time ago.”
Stanford is sponsored by Nike, which probably didn’t hurt in its recruitment of Williams. He has the skills to be a one-and-done player and move on to the NBA. His lanky frame, long arms and ability to elevate made him one of the best high school players in the nation. He is the No. 5 overall player in the 2020 signing class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He averaged 15 points and 7.9 rebounds and played his best in Sierra Canyon’s biggest games.
He played three years at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame before transferring to Sierra Canyon last summer. He lives in Lancaster and his parents have military backgrounds. Academics always has been a family priority.
He was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American game, though the all-star game was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. His final high school game was his most dramatic. He made the game-winning shot as the buzzer sounded in the Southern California regional final against Rancho Cucamonga Etiwanda to give Sierra Canyon a 63-61 victory after trailing by 11 with 2:43 to play.
One reason evaluators are excited about Williams is his potential to become even better when he gains more weight and strength. He had injury issues before this season but indicated he has learned how to take care of his body.
Williams’ decision clears the way for the basketball world to focus on the college announcement that could come as early as Monday from Lakewood Mayfair guard Joshua Christopher, who has been recruited by Arizona State, Michigan, UCLA and USC.