When playing with a teammate who has become a national story and a sought after recruit, most high school students would look up to that player as the standard for them to match.
This is the situation for 2015 four-star prospect D.J. Williams of Simeon (IL). After his teammate Jabari Parker graduated and left Chicago to play for Duke, many around the Simeon basketball team have been comparing Williams, who holds an SMU offer, to the new Blue Devil and wanting Williams to match the standard set by Parker.
Only Williams does not want to match Parker.
"Honestly, I want to be better than Jabari," the 6-foot-7 small forward said. "Even better than Derrick Rose. That's just something about my work ethic, I guess. So right now I'm just trying to reach my peak at the high school level and working hard. Jabari's my boy and all but step on the court, and I want to be better than them."
Williams shows a lot of competitive fire even when it comes to his friends. It is this drive that allowed Williams to put on eight pounds of muscle this summer and then regain five pounds after he lost the weight following an emergency appendectomy last month.
"I want to improve my strength. I've been weight training this whole summer so I gained about eight pounds," Williams said. "Before the summer I was about 195 and now I'm 203. After the surgery I lost five pounds but I gained it back."
The surgery kept Williams away from the first few weeks of preseason conditioning but he is rounding into form with the season six weeks away.
Last month, Larry Brown and the SMU coaching staff visited Chicago to talk with Williams at open practice.
"I am interested in SMU. Coach Brown came by school to talk with me for a minute. He checked up on me, told me how the practices were about to start and how the season's going to go," Williams said. "It was a blessing to meet Coach Brown. He's a former NBA coach so he could be a part of me achieving my goals."
Coach Ulric Maligi has been involved in the recruitment of Williams, including talking regularly with Williams's mother, Lolo.
"We met Ulric and those coaches, and they were just so friendly. Of course, D.J. was in awe of seeing Larry Brown," Lolo said. "But those assistant coaches were great. He was able to communicate with them and I could tell he was comfortable around them."
Williams is still learning more about SMU. He and his mother have spoken about visiting the Hilltop but have not decided when they will go. One thing he does know about the school is the quality of the recruits Brown and his staff have brought to the team.
"The players that have gone there are impressive. Really changing the caliber of the program over there," Williams said.
Williams holds other offers from Illinois, Georgetown, Providence, Nebraska, Minnesota, DePaul and Wisconsin. He also has high interest from Michigan State and Florida.
He says staying close to home could be a factor, but things could always change before he makes his decision next year.
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