Patrick Williams enters USA Basketball's Training Camp as the youngest player

“It gets no better than playing against the best in the world."
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

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Patrick Williams is in Las Vegas as part of the USA Select Team, a group of young NBA talent that practices with and against the USA Olympic Team. He spoke to reporters on Wednesday evening about his reaction to getting the invitation, having dinner with Zach LaVine, and more.

Watch out USA Basketball. Here comes Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol, Luka Doncic, Rudy Gobert and Nic Batum, Joe Ingles, Aron Baynes and Patty Mills, Tomas Satoransky and Rui Hachimura. But first the NBA's best will have to deal with Patrick Williams.

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who is coaching the preparatory USA Select Team, says the NBA stars should get a stern test from the Bulls Second Team All-Rookie forward.

"(He fits) really well," Spoelstra told reporters about Williams Tuesday on a Zoom call from the Las Vegas training camp. "Just from a physical standpoint, the US main team has this incredible firepower, right? Lot of 30-point scorers, lot of guys that can facilitate and help space for those guys. But it starts with having players who are physically, even capable of being even on the same court. Patrick is quite a physical specimen. Extremely strong and agile. He can play either the wing position or play that versatile four position. I think he's set up in the future to be a great two-way basketball player, to be able to defend virtually everybody on the floor whatever your scheme may be. And then offensively his game has already really grown. You can tell he's extremely dedicated to have that kind of improvement."

It's the gold for Bulls fans with the 6-8 rookie who still isn't 20 years old - part of the USA team that will help prepare the Olympic men's basketball team for the Tokyo Games starting later this month.

Patrick Williams rises up for a dunk against the Phoenix Suns

Patrick Williams started 71 of 72 games during his rookie season with the Bulls.

Williams is one of six All-Rookie players participating in the training camp to help get the NBA stars on the team, including the Bulls Zach LaVine, ready for the international competition and the chase for the Olympic gold medal.

Williams joins Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart of the Pistons, Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington of the Hornets. Anthony Edwards and Naz Reid of the Timberwolves, Darius Garland of the Cavs, Tyrese Haliburton of the Kings, Tyler Herro of the Heat, Dakota Mathias of the 76ers, Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin of the Knicks, Cam Reynolds of the Rockets and veterans John Jenkins, Josh Magette and Keldon Johnson.

Williams again is the youngest, which is familiar for the solidly built 225-pound Bulls rookie who often during the season was the NBA'S youngest player, never started a game in college and obviously with the late season start had no Summer League or much training camp.

Yet, Williams went on to start 71 of the 72 games for the Bulls. He finished third on the team in three-point shooting and second in steals. He averaged 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds on 39 percent three-point shooting in 28 minutes per game. Among rookies, he was 11th in scoring and ninth in rebounding.

Williams, who said he dined Monday night with teammate LaVine to get some advice from a former Select Team player, said he's mostly been working in Chicago since the end of the season with a few weeks "change of scenery" in Los Angeles.

"When I first found out, honestly, I was surprised," Williams acknowledged about the prestigious invite. "I didn't really know much about the Select Team. Of course, you know USA Olympic team. But it's an opportunity. Opportunities, one thing about them they'll pass you by quick if you let it. So just come in here and just be a sponge to anybody and everybody. You have the best of the best here. If they weren't they wouldn't be here whether it's a coach or a nutritionist or anybody who works for USA. They're the best at what they do. Keeping open ears even if the conversation isn't with me. Players, somebody else talking to somebody else. Stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit. Being a little more vocal and being a little bit more interactional. It's an opportunity and I can't let it pass me by."

Patrick Williams' full media call from USA Basketball.

Williams, who was often a reluctant shooter last season trying to work his way in with veteran teammates, said in workouts he's been concentrating on classic NBA offenses to get a head start on next season. He's also scheduled to join a Bulls team in Summer League in August back in Las Vegas.

"Just getting used to pick-and-roll, getting in a lot more actions than I was last year and just being comfortable in those actions knowing I have the skill," Williams said. "I have the size to be able to make plays in those actions whether it's scoring or contributing to a teammate or dumping it off, whatever it is. Just being able to have confidence that I can make plays in whatever actions that I'm in. Just making sure I'm ready, not only for USA Select Team camp, but for the upcoming season and for Summer League. Working on every action that I think I can be in next year. Watching film on it, thinking the game, talking the game and, of course, playing the game.

"(My) rookie season, it was more than I could ever ask for," Williams said. "Kind of thrown into the fire, honestly, just without having the proper introduction to the NBA, just having four preseason games, then right to the regular season. But I wouldn't have it any other way, honestly. It was a challenge, for sure. But I was up for the challenge and I think I handled it pretty well with the help of my teammates and my coaching staff. I kind of know now the game plan, as far as my development, my future. I don't have all the answers yet, but with the help of my coaches we've put a game plan together to get to where I need to get to."

Patrick Williams and Zach LaVine

Patrick Williams joins Zach LaVine in representing the Bulls at USA Basketball's training camp in Las Vegas.

That's also someday to play for the Olympic team in search of one of those precious medals. Williams said LaVine gushed about how excited he was to get the USA team invite, providing Williams additional motivation.

"It gets no better than playing against the best in the world," Williams said. "I think I had a stretch there where I guarded LeBron and Giannis and Kawhi Leonard, I think, three games back-to-back. Now I get a chance to do it every day. It's more than just three guys; it's the best in the world. They're all here. So just being a sponge and trying to pick up anything that I can along the way.

"So get better. Not only me, but help the main team get better," said Williams. "Coach said it from Day 1, we're here to do a job. We're here to help the main team get ready. It's a huge opportunity for us. We have a job to do here and, of course, it's a bonus in doing our job we get to get better on the court and off the court as well."

Good for the USA, good for Patrick Williams, good for the Bulls.

Now that's an impressive three pointer.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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