CHICAGO — On Thursday afternoon in his hometown of Chicago, Trevion Williams was able to play his first official game since ending his career at Purdue, as his NBA Draft Combine team played its first of two scrimmages.
Williams’ Curry team won – comfortably – and the watching legion of NBA kingmakers saw a lot they might not get from Williams during his career at Purdue.
The former Boilermaker big man led fast breaks and dished out live assists. He made a three and he protected the rim, dismissing longtime Big Ten foe Kofi Cockburn at the iron.
It was an outstanding, if not understated performance of 14 points, 13 rebounds and five assists from Williams, who understands that the more different values he can deliver, the better his chances of making the NBA and sticking with it. .
“A lot of times in college you can’t show certain things because you’re playing a specific role,” Williams said. “It doesn’t mean I could never do these things. I feel like they’ve always been there, but to fit into a system and be successful, you have to play a part and be good at your role. It wasn’t my role at Purdue. Everyone’s background is different. … The Combine is a little bit different, allows you to be more free and show other aspects of your game.”
There isn’t a player at the Combine who wouldn’t say he’s in the best shape of his life. That’s kind of the purpose of the pre-draft process. But that certainly applies to Williams, who weighed 265 pounds, looked lean by his standards and performed well in testing.
Williams says he worked here in Chicago, mostly keeping to himself to limit distractions while he worked on his conditioning, the kind of approach that could serve him well going forward.
A trap that players sometimes fall into is the assumption that an NBA career is a reward, when in fact it is the difficult part. Milwaukee Bucks forward Bobby Portis spoke at the Combine on Wednesday to make that point.
“As hard as it is to succeed, it’s harder to stay,” Williams said. “Bobby talked about it yesterday, that once you get it right it gets even harder, with guys coming in and out. You want to win that (second) contract, win people’s respect for them to say that you belong.
“I really understand it’s going to be harder now, so I never want to settle down. I’m in the best shape of my life, but there’s always work to be done.”
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Williams is unsure of anything, usually thrown in the back half of the second round right now. A lot can change before the June 23 draft, but Williams is clearly in a position where he needs to earn his spot, rather than be handed his spot.
The NBA is a league of stars, and victory usually comes from surrounding stars with complementary pieces that meet needs, seize opportunities, and improve their central players.
For players in Williams’ situations, these are the things it’s all about. Rebounding usually translates, and that’s his strength, but the more he can show he can pass, shoot, manage, make decisions and certainly defend, the better his chances of finding a place in the league where Grant Williams and Kevon Looney are. playing critical roles for big teams in the Playoffs right now.
“It’s about knowing how to fit in,” Williams said, “and those little things — picking up guys when they fall, being loud on the bench, having energy. Those little things matter.”
Williams has so far visited the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks for practices, but said he would have a number of other such opportunities after the Combine.
He is one of two Purdue players at the Combine, along with Jaden Ivey, who positions himself very differently from his former teammate.
Ivey is generally considered a top-five pick and performed accordingly at the Combine, retiring from scrums and most Tests as well as Thursday’s media session, like every other top-five player – Jabari Smith , Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero, as well as Shaedon Sharpe – did it.
Iowa’s Keegan Murray, Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis and Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin were the only top-10 prospects to speak to the media Thursday.
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