GLENDALE — When college basketball coaches sit at a “green room” table with their players on NBA Draft night, as Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd is expected to with Bennedict Mathurin on Thursday, it’s not only a show of support but also a significant recruiting advantage.
Like, guess who helped develop that player into the first-round pick that nearly all green-room invitees are? Who helped them gain a two-year guaranteed contract worth at least $4 million?
Top recruiting targets around the world, dreaming of their own green-room appearance and seven-figure salary someday, might take note as cameras routinely show the families and coaches who played a role in their development.
But maybe this year it can work the other way. Maybe some elite college coaches will take note when they see Gilbert Perry High School’s Cody Williams sitting in the green room. Because he’ll be sitting with his brother, Jalen, possibly the fastest-rising player in this year’s draft.
A 6-foot-6 guard, Jalen Williams was lightly recruited out of Perry in 2019, spent three seasons developing into an all-West Coast conference pick at Santa Clara, but in a league where the vast majority of attention is paid to Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary’s.
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Then he blew up completely this spring after strong showings in the NBA Combine and team workouts.
So who knows what Cody Williams, now a four-star, 6-8 rising senior at Perry, might turn into in a few years? Already drawing interest from Arizona and being recruited at a higher level, Cody says he’s a different player than his brother but that both of them share a passion for defense.
Along with eye-opening performances on the court at the NBA Combine, Jalen Williams ranked first in wingspan at 7 feet, 2.25 inches, a full inch and a half ahead of UA’s Dalen Terry, who tied for second at 7-0.75
“People don’t realize is he’s a lockdown defender,” Cody Williams said. “He has a wingspan that was bigger than a lot of 7-footers in the combine. He’s an underrated pass. He gets guys open, is really unselfish, and he’s super versatile. He can shoot the ball from deep so he can fit into a lot of teams.
“So when he started bumping up and they started seeing that at the combine and in his workouts, I wasn’t surprised.”
Playing for Perry at the Section 7 showcase over the weekend, Cody Williams is making a leap of his own this spring, up the recruiting boards. During one postgame interview, Williams said he wasn’t sure how many scholarship offers he had, but that they included Washington State and Nevada (247 reported that ASU, Colorado and USC have also extended offers).
Williams is expected to gain even more offers this summer, though he said he wasn’t focused on that possibility, noting that Arizona coaches have been encouraging.
Arizona already has one Perry alum on the roster, freshman center Dylan Anderson, while the Wildcats have also shown interest in rising sophomore forward Koa Peat, who left Perry over the weekend to try out for USA Basketball’s U17 team.
“They just said keep working hard, that they’re really interested and everything will work out,” Williams said of UA coaches. “So I’ve just been keeping my head down and grinding.”
He doesn’t have to look far for a role model to help with that.
Jalen Williams broke into Santa Clara’s starting lineup 10 games into his freshman season of 2019-20, made honorable mention all-league as a sophomore and last season ranked second among WCC scorers (18.0 points) while becoming a finalist for the Lou Henson Award given to the nation’s top mid-major player.
“He definitely grew since his freshman year,” Cody Williams said of his brother. “A lot of people might not have the year they wanted their freshman year and they transfer but he kind of stuck it out at Santa Clara, kept his head down and grinded. It really worked out for him.”
Contact sports reporter Bruce Pascoe at 573-4146 or [email protected] On Twitter @brucepascoe