Terrance Williams, R.J. Davis, and Position-less Basketball
Last night, exciting news broke —Terrance Williams has committed to Georgetown. This is a huge commitment for several reasons, and aside from the obvious benefits of bringing in a top-100 player, I think Williams’ recruitment and commitment are indicative of a few larger trends in the program. Here are some of my takeaways from this addition.
Patrick Ewing recognizes the importance of local talent
Incredibly, Williams is the first Gonzaga High product to commit to Georgetown in over 20 years. John Thompson III and Akbar Waheed’s alma mater would seem to be an obvious recruiting ground for the Hoyas, but it hasn’t happened recently.
Williams also plays for Team Takeover, one of the top AAU programs in the area. Keith Stevens, who runs the Takeover program, is a key figure in the DC grassroots basketball season. On a recent podcast with Jeff Goodman, Stevens was effusive in his praise of Ewing and his program (starts around 13:00 mark).
When Ewing was hired, there was some worry that he wouldn’t be able to connect with some of the AAU power brokers in the area. In an interview following Williams’ commitment, Stevens correctly pointed out the importance of the commitment for the program’s reputation.
“I think the recognition is huge,” said Stevens of Georgetown landing Williams. “Terrance is already a kid who is two time all-conference and will likely be a third time all-conference this year. Also, Terrance played in the EYBL and has won an EYBL championship. He is constantly winning. I think it brings big attention to the Georgetown program.”
Positive relationships with Gonzaga and Team Takeover can only bring good things for the Hoyas. Hopefully, Williams can open up the floodgates for more hometown kids, and more Takeover players, to follow him to the Hilltop.
Ewing is willing to go “all-in” for the right player
The Georgetown basketball program is notorious for its closed-off nature. It’s usually very difficult to get information regarding roster construction, player movement, or injuries. It is usually even more difficult to connect the dots regarding the staff’s recruiting intentions.
For example, this year, Myron Gardner announced that he had committed and signed with Georgetown following months of radio silence regarding his recruitment. At the time, the Hoyas had a full roster of 13 scholarship players — this was prior to the announcement of Grayson Carter’s transfer — making the commitment even more surprising. Try as we might, we can never really know what the Georgetown coaching staff is up to.
This year, though, Ewing is taking a different tact. Since the 2019 AAU basketball season has begun, the coach has taken out a figurative bullhorn and announced to the world what the top of his Class of 2020 recruiting board looks like.
1a. R.J. Davis
1b. Terrance Williams
When the New York Rens (Davis) or Team Takeover (Williams) take to the court, one of the recruiting analysts will tweet a list of the coaching staffs in attendance, and Georgetown is almost always on the list.
I can’t remember Ewing’s staff so obviously pushing its chips into the middle of the table on an individual recruit early in the cycle like they have on Davis and Williams. The effort has already paid off with Williams, and we’ll find out about Davis in the coming months.
Ewing is buying into position-less basketball
Versatile forwards like Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard have defined the modern era of basketball. Big, skilled, and tough, these players are effective anywhere on the court and can’t be boxed into the traditional 1-5 position model.
While Ewing can’t bring in players of that caliber, he has done his best to build a deep cache of 6’6 to 6’8 forwards with toughness and athleticism. The current roster includes Josh LeBlanc, Jamorko Pickett, Galen Alexander, and Myron Gardner, all of whom fit this bill.
LeBlanc has established himself as the starting power forward, but there isn’t a traditional backup four man in that group. Last year, though, Kaleb Johnson played the majority of his minutes at power forward, and he used a combination of athleticism and guile to mostly positive results. His herky-jerky lefty post moves befuddled defenders, and he was a key bench contributor in his senior season.
Playing a smaller, quicker player at power forward unlocks a lot of things for the Hoyas. It makes them more switchable and versatile on defense, and creates more space for James Akinjo and Mac McClung to operate on offense.
This season, I expect that trend to continue. Two of LeBlanc, Pickett, Alexander, and Gardner should be on the floor at all times, and it doesn’t really matter which one is the three and which is the four. If they bring athleticism and intensity on both sides of the ball, there is more than enough rebounding ability to offset any size disadvantage they might have at their positions.
Williams represents the next step of this frontcourt evolution. At 6’6, Williams plays bigger than his height and is very productive scoring around the rim. The twist is that he is an excellent three-point shooter. As productive as LeBlanc and Johnson were this season, neither was much of a threat from the outside. A player like Williams can bring the same toughness and activity, with the added ability to stretch the floor and create even more space for attacking guards.
Ewing is looking to acquire a small army of tough, athletic forwards who can guard multiple positions, and Williams fits that profile perfectly. The fact that he can shoot the three is just a bonus.
Here are some quotes from various recruiting scouting reports:
“A big part of what makes Gardner so good is his unrelenting motor. The forward commonly dominates the glass on both sides of the ball, something that is a direct indicator of effort. His motor also makes him a menace defensively – he does a great job of moving his feet and keeping his man in front of him.”
“There will be some nights he gives you more rebounds than points as his effort is undeniable. His energy is endless and he will fit in any system with his defensive awareness and his ability defend ball screens and switch at moment’s notice.”
“His competitiveness is arguably his best attribute. He doesn’t back down from anyone and relishes a challenge.”
Forgive me for sounding like Jay Bilas for a minute, but there is a pattern developing —Patrick Ewing cares about motor. In addition to the above scouting reports, McClung, Alexander, and Qudus Wahab also have reputations as hard-working, high-effort players.
Williams fits that bill. At 6’6”, he’s a little undersized for the power forward spot, but that doesn’t really matter. He’s strong for his age and is a tireless worker on the boards, allowing him to be much more productive around the rim than his size would indicate.
Patrick Ewing wants players who will play hard, and he’s willing to work hard to bring them in.