Williams takes his game to the NBA

SNELLVILLE – Louis Williams finally made it official Wednesday, announcing at a press conference at his high school that he will skip a college career at Georgia and go directly into the NBA Draft.

Louis Williams has not signed with an agent, he said, which means he could still pull his name out of the draft by June 21 and preserve his collegiate eligibility, but he said the chances of that happening are "slim to none." He also said he "absolutely" would pull his name out of the draft if he thinks he won't be selected in the first round.

"We're confident that he will be a first-round pick," said Janice Faulkner, Williams' mother.

Williams made his decision based on the advice of his parents, his AAU coach and a "small group of advisors," he said. He refused to name the advisors, but said they are telling them he will be a first-round selection although almost every mock draft predicts he will be an early to mid-second round pick.

Williams' biggest liability is his size, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, which is small for a shooting guard, the position he played in high school. He realizes he'll have to become a point guard to make it in the NBA, he said.

"Obviously, I'm a little guy so it's going to be a lot of work," he said.

Faulkner, Williams' sister Frashaunda Haynes and South Gwinnett coach Roger Fleetwood sat beside Williams on Wednesday while he made his announcement in front about 50 fans gathered in the school gym. Williams picked Wednesday to make his announcement because it was the nine-year anniversary of his father's death, he said. Willie Louis Williams died of a heart attack at age 49, Faulkner said.

Williams, who averaged 29 points, six rebounds and five assists per game for the Comets this year and won the Naismith Award as the nation's top high school player, informed Georgia coach Dennis Felton of his decision earlier in the day, he said.

"I'm extremely excited for Louis and his family," Felton said in a statement released by the school. "Louis Williams has the talent to accomplish anything he wants to in the game of basketball, and he also happens to be an outstanding young man. We will miss him at Georgia, but it is my hope that he continues to develop and one day becomes one of the best players ever to don an NBA uniform."

Felton told Williams he will hold onto his scholarship in case he decides to come to college, Williams said.

Williams closely studied the fate of NBA rookies Sebastian Telfair, Shaun Livingston and J.R. Smith when considering his options, he said. All three of those players were picked within the first 18 selections of last year's draft.

"I feel like I'm on the same level as those guys, if not better," he said.

Still, Williams is taking a big gamble, according to Ryan Blake, the NBA's assistant director of scouting. Players who slip into the second round of the draft aren't guaranteed contracts like their first-round counterparts and sometimes don't even make the team as rookies.

"They have that right, but in my opinion an underclassmen should not declare unless he's going to be a mid-first round draft pick or higher," Blake said. "We see people whose agents or advisors give them bad advice get hurt. That's what irks us."

Fleetwood said he thinks Williams will be a big success in the professional game.

"Nobody believes in Louis more than I do," he said. "He's capable of doing anything in life he sets his mind to. There's not doubt in my mind that he'll succeed at this, too. I'd bet my house and two cars on it. Everybody says, ‘He's not ready.' Well, it doesn't matter if they're willing to pay him money. He'll get ready. We all take gambles in life. He just happens to be 18."

Fleetwood added that neither he nor Williams was convinced that time in college basketball would make him more prepared for the NBA since the styles of play are so different.

"What a kid may learn in college basketball may not help him at all in the NBA," he said.

Also on Wednesday, Fleetwood addressed a long-swirling rumor that Mike Mercer, Williams' high school teammate and a fellow Georgia signee, was having second thoughts about playing for the Bulldogs next year.

"That's one of the worst rumors I've heard in years," he said. "We've been hearing that all the way back to the Final Four. I called him and said, ‘Is there something you want to tell me?' He said, ‘Coach, I'm a Bulldog. That's where I'm going.'"

Mercer has fully qualified to attend Georgia, Fleetwood said.


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