Johnathan Williams: Make No Mistake, the Future is Bright for this Well-Rounded Student-Athlete
June 12, 2011 • Colorado Springs, Colo.
It’s hard to confuse 2011-12 USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team member Johnathan Williams on the court for any other player. Playing with 26 other top 16-and-unders from around the nation at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., the long and lean forward/center from Memphis keeps himself busy around the basket. And with his 7-0 wingspan, he has defenders thinking twice about trying to shoot over him.
Williams as a freshman in 2009-10 averaged a respectable 10.2 ppg. and 9.5 rpg. and was invited out to the USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team mini-camp last October. Practicing and playing alongside some of the top young talent in the country helped Williams pick up the pace as a sophomore. Last season he improved his scoring to 17.3 ppg. and also posted 11.5 rpg., 2.1 apg. and 3.0 bpg., while shooting 52 percent from the field, 48 percent from 3-point and 80 percent from the line, and credits the mini-camp for helping his game improve last year.
Williams is still working on his game and would very much like to be a part of the final team that travels to Cancun next week to compete in the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, which will run June 21-25 and stream live online at FIBAAmericas.com.
So, no. There is no mistaking the quick, high-flying hoopster on the court. At home, however, might be another story. His father’s name is Johnny and his older brother’s name is also Johnny, which could cause some confusion for some. To get around any confusion, the younger Johnathan goes by J3.
This rising talent has more going for him than just basketball, however. He’s been a member of his school’s honor roll every year since 2005-06, his favorite class is algebra and has aspirations of becoming a surgeon once his basketball career is over. In addition to his efforts in the classroom and on the court, J3 enjoys reading and plays the alto saxophone.
He’s also got a very close family. Many players who are queried about the best player ever faced or the most impressive person ever met tend to list big names like Kevin Durant (J3’s favorite player, by the way) or Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Not J3. He thinks the player who’s pushed him the hardest, the toughest to play against is his brother, who competes for George Mason. And the most impressive person J3 has ever met? You guessed it, it’s someone he’s known all his life, the elder Johnny Williams because of his work ethic.
So, who is his toughest competition out in Colorado Springs at the USA Developmental National Team training camp and what is his focus this week in order to be among the select 12 to play in the upcoming tournament? USABasketball.com sat down with J3 to find out.
When you think back to the training camp last October, what comes to mind?
You just have to talk a lot more, play good defense, and they will notice you as a player. Play good defense and talk – that’s all you need to do.
Did you stay in contact with any of your USA teammates since October?
I stayed friends with mostly everybody – Jabarie, Aaron Gordon, Charles Tucker and everybody. We all have the same goals: to make the USA team and become great basketball players.
Did camp help prepare you for your high school season?
Yes, camp made me become a better leader and better vocally.
Can you talk about your sophomore season in 2010-11?
My sophomore season was great. I played on the wing, and I played inside. I just have to get a little tougher on the inside.
How did you improve during this past season?
My post skills improved, being more physical inside.
Your team has finished No. 2 and No. 3 in the state tournament. Do you think you’ll get a chance to win a state championship?
It is disappointing, but I have to keep working hard. We have a lot more players coming in, so I think we will have more chances.
Are you close with your brother who plays at George Mason? What have you learned about basketball from him? Did you compete against each other growing up?
He has taught me to keep working hard, keep reaching for your dreams and everything will work out. He always used to beat me. I didn’t like that. He always beat me all the time. He’s way bigger and stronger than me. I’m always going to be the skinny little brother. I’m taller than him, but he’s really wide. He used to always kill me on the inside.
Do you feel like you have an advantage after watching your brother go through the recruiting process?
Yes, I do. I learned to make sure you look at all of the programs, look who is going to be there, who is coming there and who is leaving so you will know where you fit in.
Your brother and your father are both named Johnny and you are named Jonathan, where did that family tradition come from?
My dad wanted to keep the name John in our family, so that’s why I’m the third John in the family. I go by ‘J3.’
How did you prepare for training camp?
Going two-a-days at home, so I can get ready for the two-a-day workouts here. I was putting shots up and a lot of running on the track to get my wind up.
What is your focus as you try to make the 12-member 2011 USA U16 National Team?
Run the court, talk, block shots and get rebounds. It’s all about your defense. Everybody has the skills to play offense, it’s who is going to play defense. That’s what counts.