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Pale Specters and Blue Devils: An Interview with Jay Williams

Pale Specters and Blue Devils: An Interview with Jay Williams
Jun 02, 2006, 09:01 pm
In a small gym out in Southern California an unexpected gift walked through the doors as we awaited the arrival of Marcus Williams for his workout. We knew there was going to be some competitive play that day, but we didn’t expect it to be former Duke standout Jay Williams.

By now everyone is familiar with the Jay Williams story. It has been one that is told with the tones of sorrow and the loss of what once was. But, missing in the somber waxings of the reporters who lament the tragedy of promise lost is the fact that Jay Williams has still got game. DraftExpress had the pleasure of witnessing just how far he’s come in the past 2 ½ years and got the opportunity to not only see how such a life changing experience has manifested in his game, but also how the perspective has altered his overall approach.

If one would have simply walked into the gym and watched Jay and Marcus go at it that day, one would think that they were watching two of the most talented point guards in the country. Erasing the names and connotations that come along with that history and boiling the moment down to its pure essence, there was much to admire in the two.

But, we don’t live in such a world. While Marcus is the beneficiary of all that being a highly touted point guard coming into the NBA brings, Jay is busy chasing away the specters of his past. One player is 20, the other 24. In the grand scheme of things these four years barely mean a thing. But, for an athlete who has had his chance at the limelight and fallen, re-emerging from the shadow cast is a difficult battle.

Jay Williams showed almost every skill that is desired in an NBA point guard. But, Jay won’t be judged against other point guards. Every time he steps in the gym to prove himself worthy, he’ll have to battle the ghost of his former self. In the eyes of scouts and other onlookers, Williams will be measured by what he was instead of what he is today. Perhaps this is not a fair assessment of how things will be, maybe a team with an open mind will simply see the skills he possesses and realize how much greater it is than what they already have on their roster. Only time will tell.

There are more obstacles to overcome for Jay Williams. Through all the trials and tribulations he’s gone through, he is still only a 2nd year player coming into this season. He’ll have to adjust to his new teammates and the system that they run while doing so at the position that is the hardest to master. But, at only 24 years old and with the maturity and perspective rarely found in one his age, there should be patience given to a player that still has so much going for him. -By Eric Weiss

Jay Williams Workout Article

Jonathan Givony: You can see the experience in you when you’re out there on the court. You’re taking guys like Marcus [Williams] aside, encouraging them and showing them what to do. How is it different for you now as opposed to 3 or 4 years ago during the draft process?

Jay Williams: Well, I was in the league one year and when I was going through the process I had a guy doing this for me. Now, after being around the league for the past few years, obviously not getting the chance to play, but just watching it has given me a lot of understanding. You know, some of my best friends are in the league and now that I finally feel good and am getting back into it I see these guys who are so quick and athletic and sometimes they don’t take the time to just make the simple play.

Jonathan Givony: Right.

Jay Williams: That’s what the NBA is all about, just making the simple play. I mean once and a while you get an extraordinary guy who can do extraordinary stuff, like Kobe, but its really just about making easy plays.

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Jonathan Givony: That’s kind of what Marcus Williams does it seems like. He’s smooth on the court and everything comes real easy to him. What are your thoughts on him going into the draft process?

Jay Williams: I like him, I like his size and his strength. I think the more he learns how to use his body, especially in the NBA, the better he’ll be. I like his mentality. When I first met him he had this swagger about him and I couldn’t read him. I said to myself, “does he really want it, I don’t know.” But, after playing with him and seeing him work I really think he’ll be a heck of a basketball player. I think a lot of making it in the NBA is about situation. If he goes to the right situation I think he’ll be an All Star caliber player.

Jonathan Givony: How long have you been working with him here?

Jay Williams: I’ve been working with Marcus about 3 or 4 weeks now.

Jonathan Givony: Anything you’ve noticed that he’s improved on while working with Joe [Abunassar] and yourself over that time?

Jay Williams:Well, I think his speed has. His first step is phenomenally fast now and especially when he can play with off-ball screens, you really have to try and force him one way. He’s really good with his step-back, he knocks down shots and just can shoot the heck out of the ball. He’s just going to have to get through the rigors of an 82 game season, which is hard for anybody to go through.

Jonathan Givony:There’s a lot of stuff out there talking about him being out of shape. People saying this and that like “he’s huffing and puffing out there.” We didn’t really see any of that. You’d probably know better than anyone else, is he out of shape for an NBA season?

Jay Williams: No, Marcus isn’t out of shape. The thing that people misunderstand is that Marcus plays the game at his pace, he controls the tempo. He’s not going to be a speedy guy that runs around the court all day long, he’s going to be a guy who picks his spots and gets the ball to the right player at the right time. He’s a situational guy, he can change pace really well, switch it up and hit you quick--boom.

Jonathan Givony: What about you? Is there anything happening for you this summer?

Jay Williams: Yes. I’ve been here working out with Joe and I’m going to go to summer league this year. I’m flying up to Toronto to work out for them and I’ve got about 6 or 7 other teams that want to take a look and we’ll see where it goes from there.

Jonathan Givony: So are you looking for a long term thing or maybe just feeling it out for one year and then going from there?

Jay Williams: My thing is that whatever the situation is, I just want to get the opportunity to play. The one thing I’ve learned is that I don’t know if I’m going to be a guy that scores 40 points, but I can guarantee you that I’m going to be the guy that makes everyone around me better. That’s what I was trying to do out there today, knock down the open shot when I can and pick my spots. But, I know it sounds selfish, but I want to be a guy who averages 7 or 8 assists. That’s the kind of player I want to be, a point guard. So hopefully I can go to the right situation and whatever playing time they give me I’m going to have to prove that and hopefully I can prove myself.

Jonathan Givony: As far as athletically, how do you feel you’re coming along compared to where you were before?

Jay Williams: I don’t have the explosion I had. I mean, I can dunk it off two feet and I can dunk it off my right. I can get up to touch the rim with my left, but I can’t elevate for the flush off of it. It’s made me change my game so I shoot a lot more floaters now, a lot more step backs and things like that. Joe tells me all the time that these are the type of things I would have had to learn when I got older anyways, so maybe it’ll help me prolong my career and not take as many hits and falls as I would have before.

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Jonathan Givony: Now you’re learning the nuances of the game. Before it came so easy to you and now you’re learning the little things.

Jay Williams: I got really lucky. When I was first hurt and was in the hospital I got a letter from Steve Nash saying that if anybody can come back from this you can. So, because of that letter I really made a point over the last 2 ½ years with my agent to study him and really mold my game after his. I mean, he’s not a guy that’s going to go and bang against people. He shoots floaters you know? Working with Joe, we’ve been really working on doing left handed lay-ups off the left leg, right handed lay-ups off the right leg, stuff to throw people off like that. That’s the game I’m going to try and develop.

Jonathan Givony: Does it make you appreciate it a lot more now? I mean, we can really see that you want it out there. We can tell.

Jay Williams: For me, every time I step on the court it’s like “I was never suppose to walk again”, so I just go out there and have fun with it because it’s a dream come true. But at the same time I want to prove people wrong. So many people have labeled me as some guy that’s going to be like some journey man wondering from team to team my whole career. For me, all I want is one opportunity. I just want somebody to believe in me. I play with my heart and that’s how I’ve always played, but I play a lot smarter now than I did when I was 20.

Eric Weiss: That’s the thing we were alluding to earlier. I mean, you’ve gained that maturity, but you’re still young. So, you’ve got the advantage of having the mentality of a 31 or 32 year old player, but with so much more time to grow into that perspective.

Jay Williams: I try and say that all the time. You know I’ll talk to Bill Duffy and he’ll say, “you know you approach the game like you’re 29”, but you know I’m only 24, I mean I’m still a kid. I still like to go out with my friends and all that. But, on the court it’s just different for me now. I don’t play that kind of chaotic game that I used to go out there with. For me it’s just changed, it’s just different.

Jonathan Givony: You can totally see it. You’ve just got to mature. That’s what NBA teams want, they want predictability.

Jay Williams: Exactly. I just want to be a guy that goes out there and controls the tempo of the game, does my job defensively, knocks down shots, and gets my assists, and wins. That’s what I want to do.

Jonathan Givony: No doubt about it.

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