In the 2022 NBA draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder selected two lottery picks. With their first choice, they drafted the highly sought-after Chet Holmgren from Gonzaga, and their second pick was a motivated player from a small school Jalen Williams. He played three seasons for Santa Clara University, and he did enough to end up the 12th pick in the draft.
A Hooper’s dream is to play for a big-time college like Duke, Kentucky, or North Carolina, but not everyone gets that chance. Only a short list of small schools recruited Williams, but the entire time he stayed motivated.
Minutes With Mark
During an interview on a new Sideline Sources series called Minutes with Mark, Williams talked about his journey and which NBA superstar motivated him.
“I was short throughout a lot of my high school career,” Williams told Sideline Sources. “I got to Santa Clara at 6’1 or 6’2. I was underrecruited because everybody was waiting for me to grow or see what happens.”
Williams (21) is now a 6 foot 6 wing for the Thunder.
“So a lot of it was just like interest, and yeah he can play, but he’s small, Williams said. “He’s kind of not athletic still. So, Santa Clara was the second school to offer me, and the other school that offered me was Hofstra, and it was in the same tournament.”
A Superstar Motivated Jalen
It would have been easy to believe an NBA career wouldn’t happen. Getting recognition from small schools is arduous. But in recent years, players are making it to the league without being at a top school. Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard are a couple of superstars who’ve done it. And one of these stars motivated Williams to do the same and go through his college career with a winners mentality.
“I think a lot of mines was kind of watching Dame’s path,” Williams explained. His story was ironically relevant to around the time that I was committing.”
Lillard did four years at Weber State. The Portland Trail Blazers chose him with the sixth pick in the draft. He went on to win Rookie of the Year and multiple All-NBA honors.
“It kind of gave me hope,” Williams said. “Then it’s a pretty optimistic thing to see somebody that was in your shoes.”
The rookie Williams is only eight games into his professional career but is off to a good start. In his last game, he recorded his first double-double with 10 points and 11 assists, and you can expect him to stay motivated and continue creating a tremendous underdog story.