Latavious Williams: From Finals To NBA Draft?

by Matthew Brennan, NBA D-League.com

April 27, 2010: It's likely that many of the talented players in this year's NBA D-League Finals will go on to play in the NBA, but there was only one player on the floor for the 66ers and the Vipers who has a chance to get drafted by the NBA in June. As the NBA D-League's first player drafted right out of high school, Tulsa's Latavious Williams is eligible for the NBA Draft and can potentially hear his named called after a strong postseason for the 66ers.

The 66ers lost the NBA D-League Finals in heart-breaking fashion on a buzzer-beater by Craig Winder in Game Two, but Williams provided a spark off the bench once again for Tulsa with 14 points and eight rebounds. He showcased his breath-taking athlecism with some vicious dunks and a big block of a layup by Rio Grande Valley's Will Conroy. Despite the loss, Williams did much to help his draft stock on the big stage of the Finals.

"We came out playing hard out of the gate and kept doing it until the end of the game", said Williams after the game in a somber Tulsa locker room. "Craig Winder just hit a big-time shot and unfortunately ended our season. It was good to get some more time to play with NBA teams watching. It might have been better if we'd won it all though, I would have loved that."

When Williams chose to enter the draft in November after being ranked as one of the top high school players in the country, he made a calculated risk. Playing against older and more experienced players, Williams could have been exposed as being not ready for professional basketball. After a slow start as he learned the ropes of the Tulsa system, Williams began to get more time and emerged as a key component off the bench and one of the league's top per-minute rebounders. He definitely feels that the NBA D-League route has helped him get better.

"It's helped me a lot. I improved my all-around game," said Williams. "I learned a lot of things, and playing this entire season for Tulsa definitely made me a better player."

The competition in the NBA D-League might be second to none, and Williams should have an advantage over many NBA Draft prospects who spent the 2009-10 season in college. In Tulsa this year, Williams was playing with and against players much older with him, some on NBA rosters, some with prior NBA experience. The starting lineup of the Rio Grande Valley team he faced in the Finals featured three players with NBA experience.

You are going out and playing against pros every day, so you can't help but improve, said Williams. "Going out and there playing some street ball with some guys in the park might not always do that for you. You just get on the court you and you improve when you are going against very good players."

Now with his NBA D-League season complete, Williams will dive head-first into the NBA Draft process. Over the next few months he will be working out for teams in the hope that they like what they see in addition to what he added to his resume with a strong campaign in Tulsa. If all goes well, he will hear his name called in June and become the second player with NBA D-League experience to be selected in the NBA Draft after Mike Taylor went to Portland in the 2008 second round. Williams is willing to do whatever it takes in order to help a team win, and he hopes to get that chance on the next level in the 2010-11 season.

"In the next few months, I'm just trying to go work out for the teams, and I'm going to see how everything goes. In terms of what I can offer, I can just go out and do all the little things that a team needs. Whatever a club needs me to do to help us get a victory is what I can do. It worked out well that way for the 66ers this season because we got very close to a championship."