The University of North Carolina has a few players hoping to hear their name called at the NBA Draft on June 20, one of whom is Kenny Williams. Nassir Little and Coby White, his Tar Heel teammates, may be garnering much of the attention ahead of the draft, but Williams might’ve been the heart and soul of the team this past season.
As the team’s senior leader, Williams brought a ton of energy on the court last season. He has the talent and ability to translate as a 3-and-D type player in the NBA. During his junior year at North Carolina, he shot 40.2 percent from the three-point line and 34.2 percent overall in his four-year tenure.
While his shooting numbers may have dipped a bit during his final year at Chapel Hill, he’s confident that his marksmanship is one of the top skills he can bring to an NBA team along with his never-ending energy.
“I can bring energy and shooting. This past season I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I wanted to, but I know I can shoot it,” Williams told Basketball Insiders. “It’s all about just showing teams that I can do it consistently. But the one thing that I did not lack was energy, effort and competing, especially on the defensive end.”
In fact, the defensive end of the floor is one of the areas where Williams excels. He had several notable defensive performances last season in the ACC, including a huge effort against rivals Duke and R.J. Barrett, one of the top draft prospects.
Taking charges and locking up the opponent’s best offensive player might not be flashy or land you a primetime spot on SportsCenter, but that’s what he hopes will catch the eye of NBA personnel. Once you get to the NBA, everyone can score and it becomes more about what else can you do to stand out as a player.
Williams is a great one-on-one perimeter defender, arguably even the best in the ACC last season. He’s quick on his feet and good at shutting off drives to the rim. The Tar Heel also recovers quickly and puts himself in prime position to take a charge — so, naturally, defense is something he takes a lot of pride in.
“I give everything I have on the defensive end, guarding the other team’s best player, whoever that may be. That’s one thing that I know, day in and day out, that’ll be there,” Williams told Basketball Insiders. “The shooting, you’ll have your days where it seems like the shot won’t go in, but that’s one thing I definitely bring every single day is defensive effort and competing.”
During his time at UNC, Williams played with a few other top-notch guards such as Marcus Paige and Joel Berry II, both of whom have since gone on to play professional basketball. Paige has spent time in the NBA with the Charlotte Hornets as well as the G League and overseas. Of course, Berry began his pro career last season with the South Bay Lakers.
Williams was one of the younger guys on the roster when those two were making their mark in the ACC. But he learned a lot from playing alongside them, especially Paige. Ultimately, they are lessons that Williams believes will stick with him and help at the professional level.
“I think the biggest thing, from Marcus [Paige] especially, is his pace. You normally don’t think about how much pace goes into it, but he didn’t rush, nobody got him out of his rhythm. He did what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it,” Williams told Basketball Insiders. “I think that’s a big part of it, not going 100 miles per hour. You can still go that speed, but do it effectively.”
Williams had his first workout with an NBA team as part of a group with the Charlotte Hornets early last month. The group also included Texas’ Kerwin Roach Jr., Buffalo’s Nick Perkins, Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie, Virginia Tech’s Ahmed Hill and Alabama’s Donta Hall.
He’ll most likely have other workouts and team meetings scheduled as the draft draws closer. As Williams puts it, the Hornets workout was a learning experience for him, and the level of competition was strong enough that he feels it will definitely help in other upcoming sessions.
“It was a lot of fun, it was my first one. I think I could have shot the ball a little bit better, but it was good to get one under my belt,” Williams told Basketball Insiders. “It was a good little workout, we had a great group, those guys competed, they went at each other and nothing was easy. It was just a lot of fun.”
Additionally, he recently took part in the Pro Basketball Combine in Los Angeles, a secondary combine for NBA prospects not invited to the main event in Chicago. There, Williams stood out not only as a defender, but he also found his shooting and scoring touch as well.
He shot 64 percent from NBA three-point range during the combine’s shooting drills. During the scrimmage session, Williams had 22 points while missing only one shot, hitting on 8-for-9 from the field and 5-for-6 from three-point range.
He’s been having a lot of fun so far taking part in the pre-draft process, but it’s been a grind too. At the end of the day, Williams is hopeful that the work he’s put in so far will lead to his name being called come June 20.
“I’ve just been trying to get in the gym as much as I can. It hasn’t really ramped up the way that it’s going to in the next couple of weeks, but it’s been a lot of fun,” Williams told Basketball Insiders. “I’m so grateful for the teams that are bringing me in. The Hornets brought me in already, but just being around these guys, it’s a fun group of guys to be around. I’m just trying to enjoy it, but at the same time showcase what I can do on the court.”
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