GLENDALE — When college basketball coaches sit at a “green room” table with their players on NBA Draft night, as Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd is expected to do with Bennedict Mathurin on Thursday, it’s not just a show of support, but also an important recruiting advantage.
Like, guess who helped make that player the first-round pick that almost everyone invited to the green room is? Who helped them get a guaranteed two-year deal worth at least $4 million?
Top recruiting targets around the world, who dream of their own green room appearance and a seven-figure salary one day, could take note as cameras routinely show the families and coaches who played a role in their development.
But maybe this year it can work the other way around. Perhaps some elite college coaches will take note when they see Gilbert Perry High School’s Cody Williams sitting in the green room. Because he’ll be sitting with his brother, Jalen, possibly the fastest rising player in this year’s draft.
A 6-foot-6 guard, Jalen Williams was drafted lightly out of Perry in 2019, spending three seasons becoming a West Coast conference pick in Santa Clara, but in a league where the vast majority of attention is paid to Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary’s.
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He then fully blew up this spring after good performances at the NBA combine and team workouts.
So who knows what Cody Williams, now a rising four-star, 6-8 senior at Perry, could become in a few short years? Already piquing Arizona’s interest and being recruited at a higher level, Cody says that he is a different player than his brother, but that they both share a passion for defense.
Along with eye-opening on-court performances at the NBA Combine, Jalen Williams ranked first in wingspan at 7-foot-2.25, an inch and a half ahead of UA’s Dalen Terry, who tied for second at 7-0.75.
“People don’t realize he’s a closeted defender,” Cody Williams said. “He has a wingspan that was bigger than a lot of 7-footers on the combine. He is an underrated passer. He makes guys open up, he’s really selfless and he’s super versatile. He can shoot the ball from deep so he can fit in a lot of teams.
“So when he started to get better and they started seeing him at the combine and in his workouts, I wasn’t surprised.”
Playing for Perry in the Section 7 exhibition over the weekend, Cody Williams is making a jump up the draft boards this spring. During a postgame interview, Williams said he wasn’t sure how many scholarship offers he had, but they included Washington state and Nevada (247 reported that ASU, Colorado and USC have also extended offers).
Williams is expected to get even more offers this summer, though he said he wasn’t focused on that possibility, noting that Arizona’s coaches have been encouraging.
Arizona already has a Perry alumnus on the roster, freshman center Dylan Anderson, while the Wildcats have also shown interest in rising second-year forward Koa Peat, who left Perry over the weekend to try out for the USA Basketball U17 team.
“They just said keep up the hard work, they’re really into it and it’s going to be okay,” Williams said of the UA coaches. “So I’ve just been keeping my head down and grinding.”
You don’t have to look far for a role model to help with that.
Jalen Williams broke into Santa Clara’s starting lineup 10 games in his 2019-20 freshman season, earned honorable mention in all leagues as a sophomore and ranked second among WCC scorers last season. (18.0 points) and became a finalist for the Lou Henson Award given to the best middle player in the nation.
“He definitely grew up from his freshman year,” Cody Williams said of his brother. “A lot of people might not get the year they wanted in their freshman year and transfer, but he stuck it out in Santa Clara, kept his head down and put in the effort. It really worked for him.”
Contact sportswriter Bruce Pascoe at 573-4146 or [email protected] On Twitter @brucepascoe