Friday, June 25, 2010

Latavious Williams Postscript: Presti!

A happy postscript to yesterday's post about Latavious Williams, the first prep to jump to the D-League. He is now the first D-Leaguer to be drafted by the NBA.

Williams went 48th overall. His drafting was notable for two things:

(1) The number of college players -- both early-entrants and seniors -- whom he was drafted before. This includes talented young players like Sylven Landesburg and Manny Harris and championship-draped seniors like Jon Scheyer.

It's not like Williams is some 7-foot prospect. He is a 6-7 small forward who plays with high energy. That makes him indistinguishable from dozens of college prospects, with one massive exception:

While those players spent the past one, two, three or four years playing in a system where the No. 1 incentive is not to get those players ready to be pros, Williams was playing in precisely that pro development system: A league whose mission is to prepare players for the NBA.

He played for NBA coaches, in NBA systems. He showcased his talents in front of NBA scouts. He played with NBA talent -- last season saw a record number of call-ups from the D-League to the NBA, where fully 20 percent of the league has spent at least some time in the D-League.

In past years, the D-League might have been a repository for NBA wannabes, ready to single-mindedly gun their way back into the league. But, hopefully, a lot more high school players whose goal is to play and succeed professionally will skip college and enter the D-League; the league's focus can then shift more comprehensively to the development of 18- to 22-year-old players to get them ready for the highest pro level, not unlike minor-league baseball.

(2) He ended up with the Thunder, perhaps the best-run organization in the NBA. I could talk all about how well the Thunder has developed young players, but the strongest argument is this:

Sam Presti -- arguably the best and smartest GM in the league right now -- thought enough of Latavious Williams (and thought enough of the prep-to-pro path he had chosen) to draft him.

Latavious getting drafted was big enough. Latavious getting by Sam Presti and the Thunder is the ultimate affirmation.

For all those undrafted college players (early-entrants and seniors alike), the D-League likely awaits you. Hopefully you can get as much out of it as Latavious Williams did.

-- D.S.

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