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Williams confident in future but relishing in the present

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Long Island forward Donovan Williams pushes the break during his first year with the Nets. Photo Credit: Jenn Voce/Long Island Nets

Being put in high pressure situations has become the new norm for Long Island Nets forward Donovan Williams. Much because he’s put himself in such positions long before joining the professional basketball ranks.

“I felt like it was time,” he said as he reflected on his decision to turn professional. “Everything I had done to that point prepared me for this moment now. I, personally, now feel like I’ve had a better pro career up to this point than my whole college career.”

Williams chose to leave UNLV with one more year of eligibility left in favor of turning pro.

“Initially, [going pro] was my goal going into UNLV,” he said. “I’ve always had supreme, ultimate confidence in myself. Going into UNLV, I didn’t feel like I needed those last two years. I went in with the mindset of, ‘I’m going to go in here and do the best that I possibly can to give myself the best chance to leave.’”

Williams spent two years as a member of the Texas Longhorns, appearing in 41 games but never averaged more than 11.3 minutes per game in a season. His first real shot to play collegiately came with the Runnin’ Rebels.

In his lone season with UNLV, Williams averaged close to 12 points per game on 49% from the field and 44% from three-point range to go along with three rebounds and just under a steal a game. In fact, he scored in double-figures 17 times during that one year as a Rebel, 14 more than in his two years as a Longhorn.

Even with the jump in production, Williams’ learned of a harsh reality during his attempts to turn to the NBA.

“The thing that I heard the most was, ‘people didn’t watch UNLV games,’” he said. “When it came down to these NBA teams and getting workouts, the biggest feedback I got was, ‘We like his numbers, we like his film but we just didn’t watch him enough. We didn’t get to see him enough in live action.’”

Forward Donovan Williams, as a member of the UNLV Runnin' Rebels, enters the Thomas & Mack Center for warmups. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

While many scouts and executives may not have watched very many UNLV games, Williams took pleasure in mixing it up with some of the nation’s most talked about players in the build up for the NBA Draft.

“I had to see how I stacked up with the other great names in the country,” he said. “I feel like when it came down to just basketball, I could stack up with anybody. For me, it was just like, ‘Alright, well let’s enter the draft.’”

Draft night came and Williams didn’t hear his name called. However, shortly after the draft, he was contacted by the Brooklyn Nets organization. Brooklyn offered Williams an Exhibit 10 contract which is a one-year minimum deal that is similar to a two-way contract but does not assure that he’ll get minutes against an NBA opponent.

Nets forward Donovan Williams elevates in the lane against the Stockton Kings during the NBA G League Winter Showcase. Photo Credit: Jenn Voce/Long Island Nets

While he waits for a potential call-up, Williams has taken the bull by the horns with Long Island and has continued to carve out a prospective promotion.

“It’s been everything for me,” he said. “When I say, ‘I’ve had a better pro career to this point than my college career,’ it’s just because I’ve been able to be the player I always knew I could be.”

In six regular season games this year, Williams is averaging 16.5 points per game on 50% shooting with two and a half rebounds and more than a steal a game.

“I think people really underestimate that,” he said. “Until you have people that believe in you and see you the same way you see yourself and are going to push you to be the same person you want to be, that’ll take you [to the next level].

Williams, along with the rest of the G League players, got a golden opportunity to participate in the four-day NBA G League Showcase in December. Each team got the chance to play two games in front of NBA scouts and executives from every NBA team.

In those two games, Williams averaged 24 points on 61% from the floor despite the Nets going winless in their two outings.

“It’s all about finding my niché,” he said. “I’ve had enough conversations with the front office about knowing where my role would be the moment I step on the court with the Nets. It would be knocking down open shots, cutting to the basket and playing defense.”

For Williams, his NBA debut is not a matter of “if” but “when.”

“I don’t know how I’ll feel the moment I run out onto that court,” he said. “Because I know it’s going to happen. As much I’ve dreamt about it, manifested it, tried to put myself in the moment. I really don’t know what that feeling will be like. I can’t wait to see what it feels like.”


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