Following a season in which he claimed his second straight conference player of the year award and earned First Team All-American honors, Grant Williams announced his plans to enter the 2019 NBA Draft on Tuesday.
That doesn't mean he definitely won't be back at Tennessee, though.
A native of Charlotte, N.C., Williams averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds during his junior season, helping lead the Vols to a 31-6 record while helping them reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014.
Williams now joins teammate Jordan Bone as one of two players representing Tennessee in this year’s draft. Senior guard Admiral Schofield will soon join them.
“I knew the decision I made needed to be my own and I had to trust myself but I also leaned on my mother, my father, my brothers and my coaches” Williams said. “I have decided that I will test the waters and enter the NBA Draft process.”
Williams also announced that he will be hiring an agent but will not forego his senior season, something that is now permitted under the new rules.
“I will not forego my last season at the University of Tennessee with the capability of coming back and finishing what I started here.”
Arriving in Knoxville back in the fall of 2016, the former Providence Day School star had an immediate impact. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Williams earned All-Freshman honors while recording the sixth-most points in UT history by a first-year.
He went on to be named SEC Player of the Year in the following two seasons, the first Tennessee player to achieve such a feat since the likes Dale Ellis and Bernard King. He was also the first SEC player to do so since 1995.
Despite the countless accolades he’s garnered throughout his collegiate career, Williams’ primary focus during this process will be to improve in areas that he feels still need work.
“I know that I need to improve on my defensive capabilities on the perimeter as well as shoot the three at a high level,” Williams said. “I think I’ve shown I can put the ball in the basket in other ways but consistently, those are things I need to show I can do.”
Williams knocked down the three at a 33 percent rate for the Vols last season, which would be considered below-average in today’s NBA. He also struggled to stay with smaller guards and mobile wings, an aspect that manifested itself at the worst possible time against Purdue.
Through all of that, Williams has learned to trust the process and lean on others around him when making what could be a life-changing decision. For awhile on Monday, it seemed as if one of his biggest mentors was on his way to the west coast.
Nearly departing for the vacant UCLA coaching position following a “lucrative” offer from the Bruins, Rick Barnes’ decision to remain in Knoxville wasn’t just a relief for the fans -- it struck a chord with his players as well.
“It definitely made it easier having Coach Barnes back,” Williams said with a chuckle. “He made the decision that he thought was best and I support him for that. I trust him whether he was staying or leaving.”
Williams has until May 29 to decide whether he will remain in the draft or return for his senior season. He is scheduled to graduate May 10 and will be heading to Los Angeles for the Wooden Award ceremony on Thurs. April 11.