Before Galen Williams experienced a growth spurt, his physical appearance often left the same first impression:
“He looked awkward,” Williams’ long-time coach Paul Soper recalls with a laugh. “Look at it sideways, you’ll think it was the letter ‘L.'”
“All arms and legs,” said Sam Doan, Williams coach at Berry High in Gilbert, Arizona.
Williams, who was 5-foot-10 in his sophomore year in high school, is now a toned 6-foot-6. His arms remain oddly long — he measured a wingspan of 7-foot-2.25 at the NBA Draft Combine in May — but the rest of his body He has matured too.
The transformation catapulted 21-year-old Williams from little-known high school recruit to potential NBA player. Producer Santa Clara might be a good lottery pick during Thursday’s 2022 NBA Draft, an idea that seemed incomprehensible only a few months ago.
But for Williams, it’s yet another example of his cross-out – while proving he’s right.
“It was something I was thinking about, something I worked really hard to get to,” Williams said of his rise. “I wasn’t really surprised….I’m just a big guy at letting the work speak for itself and doing this whole process.
“Nothing was really shocking.”
Williams was six years old when he realized what he wanted to do with his life: to be a professional basketball player.
“It’s just something you’ve always wanted to do,” Williams says now.
In middle school, as a member of the I-10 Celtics in the AAU ranks, Williams first put this vision into practice. Suber, the program’s facilitator, didn’t have a team in Williams’ age group, so he moved Williams up a few notches.
Early on, there were drawbacks. Williams, of small stature, competed against the 7-footer in practice. Sometimes it looks more like volleyball than basketball, says Super.
“But Galen figured out how to shoot them because he’s a smart kid and he loves the game,” Super said.
This, if anything, became the topic of Williams’ early basketball career. While his physical development lagged, he found ways to circumvent the problems. Under the tutelage of his father, Ron, Galen created a light jump shot. He played alongside his older classmates throughout middle school, and developed into a skilled passerby. He found a capable training partner in his brother, Cody, who is now a high school candidate himself.
Williams had already developed a well-rounded game by the time he rose to 6-foot-4 in his freshman year of high school.
“That’s when we started to realize, ‘Wow, this kid, he might have that,'” said Padrig O’Brien, an Arizona-based coach who started with Williams in high school.
Others took longer to reach the same epiphany.
Hofstra became the first school to offer a scholarship to Williams in July of 2017, and he was impressed by his performance in “Rumble in the Bronx,” one of the premier youth basketball summer tournaments. Other schools later followed suit: Nevada, Santa Clara, and Santa Barbara are among them.
But even with Williams excelling — he averaged 23 points per game when he was a junior in high school — great interest has proven elusive, even domestically.
“The joke was that Galen was gone at 30, but nobody cares,” O’Brien said.
None of that bothered Williams, who is known among his peers for his ability to tune out any outside noise. In November 2018, the potential 3-star player—and the 242nd ranked recruit in his class, for all 247 sports—committed to Santa Clara.
“For whatever reason, he flew under the radar,” Duane said. Many people miss him. But he knew it was good. He always played with a chip on his shoulder, wanted to show people that he was good.”
Super added, “What surprised me was that they didn’t look at the talent. They were looking at his build. Everyone said, ‘It’s kind of embarrassing.'” Being a New Yorker, I’d say, ‘To hell with the eye test.’ Do you see the results and the way he plays? ”
Those close to him noticed not only the way he plays, but the way he trained as well.
Lucas Archuleta, a player development coach who was a former Arizona resident, remembers Williams showing him a daily schedule during one of his initial sessions. At the time, Williams was just a high school student. However, the ritual is very similar to what surprises Archuleta, like a professional basketball player.
“Trusting him, he’s really starting to figure it out,” Archuleta said. Like, ‘Hey, I can probably get to that level if I really work at it. “”
Unsurprisingly, Williams arrived in Santa Clara “really prepared,” according to Broncos coach Herb Sendek.
But these first and second mass campaigns faced their challenges. The pandemic interrupted what had been a strong freshmen season — Williams started 23 games, averaging 7.7 points per contest — and tarnished his second year. Due to local COVID ordinances, Santa Clara faced severe restrictions on gym time and had to book into a Santa Cruz hotel just to run her schedule.
In contrast, Williams’ production declined.
“He knew he could get better,” Archuleta said. “And then that summer as he entered his young year, it really started to look like for him.”
Sendek could see the difference in Santa Clara’s first pre-season brawl. Williams was on the cusp of stardom.
“That’s what Galen does,” Sindyk said. “He’s back and he’s better. He does more things. And this is a pretty consistent brand since I’ve known him.”
The new skeptics
Now, after earning All-WCC first-team honors averaging 18 points per game as a junior, Williams is ready to take another step.
And once again, he will have to mollify a new group of naysayers.
“I think a lot of things are happening because obviously I went to a smaller school,” Williams said. “That kind of play. You have the questions: Can I play with talent? Can I maneuver around the guys? Things like that.
“The combination was huge for me, just being able to showcase my talents and [show] It’s universal all over the place I play.”
In the combination, no one has turned heads more than Williams. Amazed by his measurements and stunned in melees, he rose from a marginal first player to a potential lottery pick, sparking his decision to remain in the draft.
“He’s intriguing,” an NBA scout told The Post about Williams. “Where does he end up? I don’t know. I feel like a lot of the teams thought he’d be back for his first year, and I didn’t see him much during the season. Then he got the combination he did, so he ended up staying in the draft so now we have to really dive into this guy.” “.
Sendek added: “The NBA community here this spring has discovered what we’ve been getting used to day in and day out over the past few years.”
Williams said the reality of his dream had yet to cross his mind, a few days before the draft. After choosing him, expect the emotions to start.
But he will not dwell on it for long. The next phase of his basketball journey looms, and he wants to answer the call:
“I’m ready for that next step,” he said.