WALTHAM, Mass. — Chaz Williams is in the midst of a whirlwind trek back and forth across the country, working out for any NBA teams that will allow him onto their court. And he cherishes every minute.
Whereas many of the top prospects in the 2014 NBA draft can’t yank their names out of workouts fast enough, Williams would try out at the local playground if a professional scout were watching. The 5-foot-9 point guard out of UMass knows the odds are stacked against him, which is why he is doing everything he can to be seen.
“As much as possible,” Williams said Monday after his latest workout, with the Boston Celtics. “It’s ‘Chaz Williams, the little guy,’ so here’s my opportunity to prove to everybody, well, I’m little, but I can compete with the best of them. I just want to get out here and show everybody as much as I can.”
No player in college basketball last season was more tenacious than Williams, who averaged 15.6 points and 6.9 assists per game for the Minutemen, the first-round NCAA tournament victim of the Tennessee Volunteers. He is not expected to be drafted at all on June 26, making his workout tour as much about generating post-draft interest as it is about strengthening his draft position.
Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge, who watched the workout, admitted that nobody is entirely sure what Williams is capable of as a pro.
“That’s a great question, and that’s what we’re all trying to figure out,” Ainge said. “Chaz is a special player. He is exciting and a great ballhandler and obviously had a very good (college) career. It’s all the size. The good thing for Chaz is, he’s short but he is pretty strong. He gets into guys and he fights.”
Ainge acknowledged that “everything being equal” he would take a taller player over a shorter player, but “everything isn’t always equal. Some guys just have the heart and the skill and the speed to make it happen.”
Williams has exchanged text messages with Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, who fell to the 60th pick in the 2011 draft due mainly to questions about his 5-9 height. He has also watched Celtics guard Phil Pressey, who spent the entire 2013-14 season in the NBA as an undrafted 5-11 rookie.
These players give Williams hope, but they don’t cloud his vision. When he dons the practice gear teams issue to him for each workout, he pauses to revel in the moment. He understands that these chances are fleeting, and even if he does all that is asked of him and more, his height might be a hang-up teams just can’t overlook.
“I try to let it soak in as much as possible, because nothing is (promised),” Williams said. “This is a great opportunity, but nothing is (promised), so I’ve got to take the most out of the experience and just be appreciative. Just be thankful and blessed that I’m in this situation, and work hard to continue to be here.”
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