It didn’t take long for Emmitt Williams to make his mark at the Peach Jam, the annual basketball extravaganza that concludes Nike’s summer travel season.
On Wednesday night — his first game at the event — Williams threw down a huge dunk over No. 1 national prospect Marvin Bagley. Later in the game, he did it again.
“I always wanted to go against him since I was in middle school,” Williams said of Bagley, the longtime No. 1 player in this 2018 class. “That I finally got the chance to go against him and show what I really can do against other top players is great.”
Williams had already made quite a name for himself before Wednesday’s dunkfest.
The 6-foot-8, 215-pound bull of a power forward averaged 17.6 points and 11.6 rebounds during the Nike regular season this spring. He was third in rebounding behind only Bagley and Jontay Porter, another top recruit who’s expected to reclassify to 2017 and play for Missouri this season.
While many of his peers are worried about getting their own points and filling up a stat sheet, Williams takes pride in the aspects of the game that often get overlooked at this level.
“He’s so bouncy, and he’s athletic and physical and tough,” said Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. “I think he’s the ultimate energy guy. You know what you’re getting from him every time he steps on the floor. He just plays a tough, physical brand of ball.
“You gotta love the energy that comes out of him.”
That energy was on full display again Thursday afternoon.
In one sequence, Williams blocked a shot off the backboard, smacking the board so hard on the way down that it was still shaking a few seconds later. A couple of minutes after that, he threw down a rim-rattling dunk to help his team win the game.
UK assistant coach Kenny Payne was sitting a few feet away from that one, and he was there for Williams’ game Wednesday night, too. UK’s coaching staff contacted Williams earlier in the week and said they would be watching.
“I would love to get an offer from them,” Williams said. “It would be a blessing to get an offer from Kentucky. I look up to those guys.”
He’s also friends with one of them.
Williams and five-star UK freshman Kevin Knox were teammates on the Nike circuit last summer, and Knox is already in his friend’s ear about coming to Lexington for a visit so he can show him the campus. “He said he loves it already,” Williams said.
Florida, Florida State, Kansas and Louisiana State are among the other schools thought to be heavily involved in his recruitment. (Williams didn’t give many specifics on that Thursday.)
One other heavy hitter that’s certainly interested is Duke.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski personally called Williams with a scholarship offer from the Blue Devils in early May, and that conversation clearly left an impression on the young player.
“Getting that phone call, it was like talking to God,” Williams said. “I never thought I would be talking to the greatest coach in the world on my cellphone.
“I love everything about Duke. … It’s like basketball heaven there.”
Those are strong words about the Blue Devils, but UK is just getting started in Williams’ recruitment. (The tardiness won’t hurt the Cats’ chances, he said, assuming they get more involved over the next few weeks and months.)
For the time being, Williams is more focused on rounding out his game — he wants to be a positionless player, specifically mentioning the defensive versatility of NBA star Draymond Green as a model — and finishing up his schoolwork at IMG Academy in Florida.
“I want to be that kid that brings the motor to the team, gets everybody on their feet and makes sure everybody is ready to play.”