Jacob Williams made a mistake, and he's paid for it. He was forced to leave St. Patrick High School, and his transfer to Bartlett made him ineligible to compete on its high school team. His year of exile is finally over, and he is returning to St. Patrick for his junior year.
Williams was beginning to flash great potential in last summer's AAU games, but sitting out stalled his progress. Unable to play high school ball, he dedicated himself to working out with Illinois Wolves AAU coach Mike Mullens over the winter and spring. But he needed game action to clear the rust and get his game back in shape.
"It took the first half of AAU season," Williams explains.
His play with the Wolves in first round action at the recent Chicago Hoops Classic demonstrated a confidence and fluidity he lacked previously.
"Yeah, I was comfortable today."
The slender 6'-4" leaper is a man of few words, at least for the media.
"He's always shy with adults," Mullens relates. "He's more loquacious with the ladies."
Mullens was eager to discuss his prized pupil's game.
"I thought Jacob had a great game for us tonight. We last played seven weeks ago and had no practice. We started off having trouble scoring the ball.
"Jacob was very active on the glass, had some tipins and hit a big three for us. He kind of carried us until the rest of the guys got going. I thought it was one of Jacob's best performances."
Mullens enjoys working with players who want to make something of themselves.
"We've been working with him all spring, trying to get the rust off. The great thing is that Jacob is starting to buy into everything that we're coaching him. He's realizing in his defense and all-around game, to not just settle for being a good player. He wants to be a great player.
"The kids we've had before who have done well have done that, and Jacob's starting to buy into that. We've got high expectations for him."
According to Williams, his exile from the game may have been a blessing in disguise.
"It made me humble. I'm trying to stay humble and be more thirsty."
Since many people haven't seen him play, Williams was asked to describe his game.
"I like to gravitate towards the baseline for a skip pass. I do that really good. And I like to drive to the basket."
What does he want to work on the most?
"Ball handling. I'd like to push the ball up the court."
Colleges will need time to evaluate him, so his thoughts about his college future are in their infancy.
"I haven't thought about where I want to go yet. And I haven't made any visits yet."
A good AAU season, followed by a successful high school season, should see Williams rise up among the best 2011 prospects in the state of Illinois. If so, he will be a highly recruited prospect, and he will have many opportunities to gain a comfort level with the media.
The high school years are an important time in a basketball player's development. It is when a young body matures and begins to flash its ultimate athleticism and potential. It is also an important time to learn the game by competing against your peers. Unfortunately, Jacob Williams lost a whole school year. It is taking him time to catch up.
St. Patrick wing starting to reassert himself after year absence