Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Latavious Williams made history Thursday when he became the first high school player ever to jump straight to the NBA D-League.
The Tulsa 66ers chose Williams with the 16th overall pick. Tulsa is an affiliate of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
His high school coach said Williams turned down a $100,000 guaranteed contract to play in China in favor of entering the D-League Draft because he felt it gave him a better shot at reaching the NBA. The average D-League salary is between $35,000-$40,000.
“He had a contract on the table that could’ve paid him $100,000 or better in China but he had to weigh the pros and cons,” said Carlos Wilson of Humble (Texas) Christian Life Center. “It came down to taking the money and getting some financial stability for now, but still you’re a long way from the NBA when you’re in China. Or taking the least amount of money and being a step closer instead of four steps closer.”
The 6-foot-8, 205-pound Williams initially committed to Memphis in May but faced academic hurdles that endangered his eligibility. He then announced in July that he would play overseas instead.
“Obviously if a kid has a chance to play professionally and have a chance financially to better him and his family, again, you have to support the kid because that’s No. 1,” Memphis head coach Josh Pastner told the Memphis Commercial Appeal in July.
Brandon Jennings skipped college last year to play professionally in Italy and ended up being chosen No. 10 in this year’s NBA Draft by Milwaukee. He is now the leading contender for NBA Rookie of the Year honors.
Jeremy Tyler, a 6-10 junior from San Diego, is suffering through a rocky time in Israel and plans to enter the 2011 NBA Draft.
Two American college guards, Nick Calathes of Floridaand Terrence Oglesby of Clemson, opted to leave college early to play professionally overseas.
But Williams made history by jumping to the D-League, which he hopes will eventually lead him to the NBA.
“Somebody from the NBA is going to see your every move,” Wilson said. “I think that was it. It was basically closer to making it to the NBA.”
According to Tulsa’s official Website, three players on the Thunder’s opening night roster saw playing time with the 66ers last season.
Kyle Weaver averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and nine assists in two games, while D.J. White averaged 18.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in six games on assignment in Tulsa. Shaun Livingston played 11 games for Tulsa, averaging 9.3 points, six assists and 3.5 rebounds per contest, before being called-up to the Thunder on March 31.
In addition, Ramon Sessions of the Minnesota Timberwolves played on assignment during the 2007-08 season, while Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova and Orlando Magic forward Brandon Bass each played on assignment during the 2005-06 season.
Williams hopes he can follow in their path.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.