Even locally, in Virginia, Kenny Williams didn't explode overnight. The slender guard hasn't always blown away the Richmond-based talent scene — which has become accustomed to greatness over the years — but he began to turn in scoring barrages toward the end of his junior season and maintained the pace through the close of his senior year.
Williams scored 27 points in the 2014 state quarterfinal and drew an offer from Virginia Commonwealth in the process. By the time I'd watched him that April, at the Southern Jam Fest, he'd picked up additional offers from Virginia Tech, George Mason and William & Mary.
When Boo Williams traveled to California for the opening leg of the EYBL, in late April, Williams placed himself on the national map. At that first EYBL session, he hit double figures in all four contests and topped the 20-point mark twice. Following that weekend his recruiting trajectory shifted upward in dramatic fashion.
He continued to tour with Boo Williams and also attended the prestigious NBPA Top 100 Camp in June. His play to round out the summer, including the Peach Jam, was inconsistent, but nevertheless he helped Boo to a strong stretch of July performances and deep tournament runs.
By the end of summer he'd drawn offers from multiple power programs, including North Carolina, Indiana, Michigan, Georgetown and others. Ultimately, however, Williams prioritized his longstanding relationship with VCU and chose Shaka Smart's widely respected program.
His senior campaign featured another deep playoff run and individual accolades, including first team all-metro honors.
Everything seemed to be proceeding according to plan, but Smart departed VCU for Texas this spring and left the Rams' program reeling. Williams obtained a release and reopened his recruitment, ultimately boiling down the field to North Carolina and Virginia.
He committed to Roy Williams' Tar Heels shortly thereafter and gave UNC a highly desired shooter.
This eval is pretty easy. Williams is an excellent jump shooter, not only in terms of accuracy but based on a quick release. He doesn't require a long follow-through and thus his results should translate well to college versus more intense defense. He prefers the wings and the top of the key but can hit them from the corners as well. Overall, he shot 44 percent on threes during his 19 games of action on the EYBL circuit.
And Williams isn't entirely one-dimensional. He's clearly a shooter first, but he possesses a solid frame and sufficient quickness to put the ball on the floor. He's effective driving in either direction and is a pretty good finisher with his left hand. Even if he's 75/25 jump shooter, that 25 percent slashing will be critical in order to maintain balance.
Meanwhile, he plays with high alertness and wields a solid floor game, not forcing the action and playing a team-oriented style. There's a reason his squads typically show up on the winning side of the ledger.
He's also the kind of player who will benefit from the presence of other impact performers. That's a key difference between a shooter and a volume scorer, because Williams doesn't require double-digit shots to be effective or need to dribble into his attempts. He already has proved to be effective knocking down shots on kickouts and behind off-ball screens, which should ease his transition to college.
Williams started out hot but cooled as last travel season progressed. He shot 47 percent on threes during the EYBL regular season but dipped to 35 percent at the Peach Jam. He also didn't notch a consistent impact in those games, averaging 10 points per contest on just 43 percent overall shooting.
Moreover, he doesn't go to the free throw line often and converted a surprisingly poor 67 percent from the line when he did get there.
He isn't a subpar athlete but is just average by high-major standards, and he isn't particularly tall or long. He absolutely must shoot accurately from long-range to bring consistent production to his team.
Williams has moved in and out of national rankings due to his obvious ability to shoot measured against bouts of sluggish production. Becoming more aggressive and consistent will be vital for him as he advances to college.
That said, shooters are scarce in the Class of 2015 and there's no question he can fill that crucial need for the Tar Heels, where long-range marksmanship has been an issue in recent seasons. When one assesses UNC's offense — which rewards wings who knock down spot-up threes on the wings — Williams projects as an outstanding fit.
Not only can Williams bury those shots, he possesses an understanding where to locate open looks and won't be tempted to play out of control. He should enjoy a bright career in Chapel Hill and become a truly pivotal player after Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson make their exits from campus.
His freshman season may be somewhat quiet as he adjusts to the speed and physicality of the college game — plus he'll be behind Jackson and Theo Pinson on the wings — but ultimately he could become a three-year starter.
Shooters are at a premium in the rough-and-tumble college game, and Williams appears to be a player who's likely to play all four years. If UNC can count on at least one shooter in its back pocket through the 2018-19 campaign, that mitigates significant pressure for the coaching staff as they attempt to address multiple other needs.
Williams, facing intense pressure to conduct a second recruitment, has found himself in a highly promising situation where a starting position could open his second year in school. It's up to him to make the most of it, of course, but both he and the Tar Heels should reap handsome dividends during his years within the program.