Williams helped lead the Tulsa 66ers to the 2010 D-League Finals (Photo by Rich Crimi, Getty Images).
Williams Spent 2009-10 Season in NBA D-League
Oklahoma City, Okla. (Monday, June 29, 2010) – While it may not have been a move that garnered as much attention as the recently outlawed path straight from high school to the NBA, the selection of forward Latavious Williams in last week’s NBA Draft is a historical moment in the league’s history. The drafting of Williams, who was taken 48th overall by the Miami Heat before being dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder last Thursday, is a monumental pick because it made him the first player to ever skip college for the NBA D-League as his road to the NBA.
"I got a lot of experience out of that," Williams said of playing in the NBA D-League. "You don't need to go to school or nothing. You just (need to go) back and forth from home to the gym. The gym was like three minutes away, so you can always go to the gym and get work. In college, you can't do that."
After grades prevented him from playing college basketball at the University of Memphis, Williams intended to go the same route of Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings and play a season in Europe. His mother quickly rejected that idea because she did not want her young son that far away from home. After weighing his options, Williams decided his best move would be to sign on for a year with the Tulsa 66ers of the D-League.
"I made the right choice," Williams reflected. "You can always go back to school. I went to the D-League and just learned."
Williams, who stands 6-8, averaged 7.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in roughly 20 minutes of action a night throughout the D-League’s 50-game schedule, but it was during the postseason that he turned it up a notch. The Mississippi native put up 11.3 points a game with 8.0 boards and helped the 66ers to the D-League Finals before the team fell to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, two games to none.
"I think when you consider the majority of our players were all-conference or better in college and he's playing with NBA rules in front of NBA scouts every night, he learned a lot in a very short period of time," D-League President Dan Reed commented on Williams before last Thursday’s NBA Draft. "You saw that on the court, and that's why he's been talked about as a draft prospect."
Reed says that roughly 20 percent of NBA players have some degree of D-League experience, and he feels that his league can be very productive for young players to develop their game. With the promotion of Williams to the NBA, it appears that the league can also be a viable option for those players who have NBA intentions but do not wish to attend college. Since 2006, all NBA hopefuls have been required to be at least one year removed from high school before they can declare themselves eligible for the NBA Draft.