NBA Draft: Jalen Williams gets his shot 26 years after Nash broke through for Santa Clara

It took a while, but Jalen Williams is no longer a curiosity. The secret is out regarding the Santa Clara guard who is the school’s most talented player since Steve Nash.

Williams, 21, is expected to become the first player from Santa Clara to be drafted in the first round since Nash in 1996. The question is how high he’ll go. And in the run-up to the draft, which includes private workouts, meetings, and the NBA Draft combine, Williams can sense a change in how he’s perceived.

“I definitely felt the shift in the combine where I’ve been able to show everything that I’ve been working on,” Williams said Tuesday in a phone interview. “People obviously haven’t seen me, being on the West Coast. We play later so everybody misses our games. But I felt with what I did at the combine, people’s eyes were opened seeing me live and the little things I can bring to the table.”

Not only did Williams have the longest wingspan of any guard in the draft (over 7-foot-2 inches), but he also had the best standing vertical leap and was a standout during scrimmages on both days while other players sat out a day or didn’t participate at all.

Eyes were opened to the point where Williams and his family were extended a green room invitation Thursday with all the big names at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That doesn’t happen unless a player is a potential lottery (top 14) selection.

“He’s no longer a diamond in the rough,” longtime WCC analyst Dan Belloumini said. “Everybody knows about him now. I believe he’s going to be drafted relatively high. I really do believe that.”

Guard Jalen Williams (24) finishes at the rim for Santa Clara this season. Courtesy of Santa Clara University

Since Williams declared for the draft on March 31, he’s shot baskets in front of Jerry West in a workout with the Los Angeles Clippers and had a sit-down with San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. He worked out for the Warriors when they were in the midst of a championship run. Williams discovered what he’d heard was true — Golden State workouts were serious business in terms of deciphering who can get up and down the floor.

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“They like to play fast, and a lot of their stuff is based on conditioning,” Williams said. “It was fun to be there going into the Finals atmosphere and to have them all there. Draymond (Green) was yelling and jumping around during our workout, coaching us up. It was a very cool experience and something I won’t forget.”

Not that the Warriors, picking at No. 28 in the first round, will have a chance at drafting Williams, nor is it certain they’d be looking for another athlete to put on the wing when there is dirty work to be addressed inside.

But in the follow-the-leader mentality of professional sports, more NBA teams will gradually play as the Warriors play. Which happens to suit Williams just fine.

“I think I’m going to be able to evolve,” Williams …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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