Jaylin Williams / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com
Arkansas Razorbacks basketball star Jaylin Williams probably feels a little bit like a contestant on the long-running gameshow “The Price Is Right,” trying to make a decision whether to take the first set of prizes shown in the Showcase Showdown or to pass and see if the next gift package is even better.
Williams, who is competing at the NBA Scouting Combine in Chicago this week, will soon face the decision whether to take his chances and turn pro after a solid sophomore season or to come back to the UA for his junior year.
The fact that Arkansas currently has no scholarship available for him at the moment might be a clue which way Williams is leaning.
Now, that might not be the case.
As legendary head Hog Nolan Richardson once said, “The numbers have a way of working themselves out.”
If Williams opts to return, head coach Eric Musselman will find a way to make it happen.
The 6-10, 240-pound Fort Smith native, who has great hands and came into his own offensively and defensively during Arkansas’ run to the Elite Eight, was projected as a mid second-round draft pick going into the the combine.
Williams isn’t a flashy player, and while he is athletic, his physical capabilities would be considered average among the rarefied air of the NBA. Where Williams will make his bones as a pro is with his mind and his heart.
He is an intelligent player, who understands that basketball is a game of angles and positioning. Though Williams developed into a star on the college level, he is a gritty, glue guy, who doesn’t mind doing the dirty work. That will endear him to NBA coaches.
If he has a fault, maybe, he passes too much instead of taking his own shot?
His ticker also pumps and thumps loud and long. He developed into a team leader last season, and was without doubt the best team spokesman as a sophomore.
Williams played well Thursday in the combine scrimmage, busting his tail on defense, threading a pinpoint pass in traffic for an assist, throwing down a monstrous dunk, taking a trademark charge, and setting a number of picks to open up jumpers for teammates.
He probably caught some eyes and turned some heads. He possibly improved his draft stock.
Jaylin Williams / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com
If Williams returns to play for the Hogs, he might not be the most talented Razorback on the team, but no other Hog will outwork him, and he will be a natural leader and tone-setter — along with fellow junior Devo Davis — for a squad filled with freshmen and transfers.
Most of the too-early preseason polls have the Razorbacks ranked in the top five, thanks to a stellar recruiting class from a traditional standpoint as well as key acquisitions from the transfer portal, as well as the possible return of Williams.
Should Williams opt to stay in the draft to chase his NBA dream, expect the Hogs to fall in future pre-season projection, probably out of the Top 10. Williams is that respected on the college level.
Now, I personally would dearly love to see Williams return for another go-around with the Hogs. Because of his tenacity, leadership, talent, and personality, Williams became one of my favorite Razorbacks to watch in a good while during his first two years in the program.
To me there’s nothing more fun to watch than a big man who has a gift for passing, and Arkansas hasn’t had a big man with the passing touch that Williams possesses since Oliver “Big O” Miller (1988-92).
However, I certainly understand the reality of things, and the goals Williams has set for himself and his potential professional career.
There is no doubt that coach Musselman and his staff would help Williams improve if he returned for his junior year.
Williams would be a better player a year from today than he is now if he returned to Arkansas because of the way he works and the way Musselman and his staff teach and coach.
However, just because Williams would be improved as a player doesn’t necessarily mean his draft stock would improve. It might, and it might not.
NBA teams draft on potential, and that is governed by raw athletic ability and high-level skills more than anything else.
Williams’ raw talent isn’t going to vastly improve with another year in the college game, and other than outside shooting, he is already working with an advanced skill set. So his draft stock wouldn’t likely improve or tumble no matter how much he would or wouldn’t improve with another year on the hill.
Barring some crazy injury, Williams will get a shot at the NBA whether it’s this year or next. It looks like he will probably be as a second-round draft pick without the guarantee of sticking with the team.
So the question Williams has to ask for himself is whether he is content with his college career or does he have some goals he’d like to accomplish as an Arkansas Razorback?
Again, I’d love to see him come back. Arkansas might have a chance of achieving something special next season with Williams as the tone-setter for the Hogs.
Maybe an SEC title? The school’s second SEC Tournament Championship? A trip to the Final Four? Maybe even a shot at the national title?
Hey, it’s not even summer. Why not dream big for the moment?
Or Williams could take his shot at the NBA, probably a life-long dream of his. Who could begrudge him for that?
Whatever his decision, I’ll be rooting for the young man with the huge smile and the championship-sized heart.