Latavious Williams, boxing out(?) Major Wingate. Darren McCollester/NBAE/Getty Images
Latavious Williams is a player I've been watching quite a bit as of late because as the first player to make the jump straight from high school to the D-League, his story will could make, or break, the system for everyone hoping to follow in his footsteps.
I don't condone skipping college in every case, but if the D-League is a better way to develop a high school player than a year in college or a year in Europe, I'm certainly for it.
The other interesting thing is that he was drafted by the Tulsa 66ers, owned by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Whether he's drafted or not next season, the Thunder will know the most about him, good or bad.
If you need a bit of a backstory on Williams, Jon wrote a bit at length about him here.
Anyway, I've lined up a feature with Williams coming sometime with in the next week on Williams the person, but yesterday Draft Express scout extraordinaire Jonathan Givony took a look at how his game has progressed as a player.
In short, it seems Givony is beginning to buy into his potential, but isn't quite sold.
While I encourage you to read the full article, it's extremely in-depth, I've pulled a couple of the highlights for you after the jump.
For a guy like Williams-who obviously wasn't all that interested in the academic side of being a collegiate "student-athlete"-being able to spend all his time and energy on playing, practicing, studying film and working individually on his skill-level probably isn't a bad thing at all, especially since he was a severe long-shot to qualify to play at Memphis in the first place.
The interesting thing about Williams is that he does not seem to get caught up in the selfishness that often plagues the D-League. While he surely deserves credit for this, this is just as much a testament to his coaching staff (led by the well-respected Nate Tibbetts) and the entire Tulsa organization, as they refused to just spoon-feed him minutes early on in the year and really made him earn his playing time by doing things the right way. He's bought into being a role player, which is a good sign since that is almost certainly what he'll be if he's able to carve out a niche for himself in the NBA. His feel for the game is still quite limited, but he's not a terribly turnover prone guy and seems to understand his limitations.
All in all, there is a lot of things to be impressed about when evaluating Latavious Williams' first season out of high school, even if he obviously still has a long ways to go. Many will look at his unremarkable per-game numbers (5.5 points, 6.7 rebounds in 17.6 minutes per game) and want to close the book on him, but digging deeper does reveal some intriguing things.
Either way, there will be plenty of high school players, parents and NBA agents looking to see how this situation unfolds, as it could provide an interesting alternative to the NCAA for some players, since most smart European teams obviously have no interest (or benefit) in simply renting a pet project for a year. There's no question that this is the route that Renardo Sidney, for example, should have chosen from the very start.