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BOSTON – When Celtics draft pick Robert Williams arrived at the Auerbach Center for the first time Wednesday, his newest mentor – Al Horford – was there to greet him.
Welcoming his new frontcourt mate with open arms, Horford made one thing clear to the 20-year-old rookie.
“We’re going to work hard,” Horford told him.
Those five words have stuck with Williams over the last few days. He’s has already put in several hours of work inside the team’s new state-of-the-art practice facility, including a 6:30 a.m. workout Friday morning, well ahead of his 10 a.m. introductory press conference.
“Boston is a place that loves hard workers,” Williams told the media after posing for a few photos with his green and white No. 44 jersey. “They love players and athletes who give the city and their team their all.”
Based on his track record, Williams should fit that mold.
During two seasons at Texas A&M, Williams blossomed into one of the most renowned rim protectors in the country. His hard work at College Station paid off in the form of back-to-back SEC Defensive Player of the Year awards, which ultimately paved his path into the NBA.
As fate would have it, Williams would be drafted 27th overall by the team that owned the top defensive rating in the league last season. And he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
“It’s a great fit,” said Williams. “I’m coming into a team that’s competing to be in the Finals. I feel like they give it their all, they’re hard workers, and the fans and the city behind them makes it ten times better. So, I feel like I fell into a great place.”
That feeling is mutual between Williams and the Celtics’ basketball operations staff.
C’s coach Brad Stevens lauded Williams’ defensive versatility Friday morning, as well as the energy that he brings on the offensive end.
“He’ll protect the rim, but also keep guards in front of him when the floor is spaced,” said Stevens. “And on the other side of the floor, he has a great bounce to his game. He’s able to get up off the floor quickly, play well above the rim, but also handle the ball and pass the ball, which are really things that we need our forwards to do.
“So, there are a number of obvious transferrable skills right now in Robert’s game, and then there are things that he has to continue to improve and manage.”
That’s where a guy like Horford comes in.
Williams made it clear during his introductory presser that he will lean heavily on Boston’s vets to help show him the way throughout his rookie season. He listed Horford in particular as a great example for him to live up to.
“Definitely I plan on looking at the vets from Day 1,” said Williams. “Horford has had a great career. He eats right, works out right, he does everything he could do on a day-to-day situation. So, I feel like following his every footstep will just give me the keys to success to being in this league.”
Having a such a diligent mentor in Horford should go a long way for Williams. And now that they are acquainted, it’s time for them to get to work.