(Patuxent photo by Jen Rynda )
The bleachers have been folded up against the walls, leaving only a few bench spots for the smattering of parents and siblings in a nearly empty Baltimore City Community College gym.
On the right baseline stands a 6-foot-1 shooting guard who might weigh 175 pounds. At the extended free-throw line sits an office chair. In a matter of seconds, the Nike Baltimore Elite player charges toward the nondescript piece of furniture at a speed normally reserved for football combines, not an AAU basketball practice.
After sharply curling around the chair, the wiry guard softly cradles a pass from a coach, stops, elevates and buries a 15-footer. Then it’s back to the end of the line, waiting his turn for yet another run through a drill that almost no one is watching.
Kameron Williams has been in the spotlight longer than most players his age. The Mount St. Joseph junior earned first-team Baltimore Catholic League honors as a sophomore and was selected as the conference’s MVP for the 2011-12 season. But it is his precise focus in moments like this – moments when no more than 15 people are in the gym – that have separated him from most of his basketball-playing peers.
“It gets tiring, but it’s something that you have to do, something that you have to live with,” Williams said. “If I want to be the player I want to be, these things have to happen. It’s going to work out for me in the long run, so I really don’t have a problem with it.”
Evidence of Williams’ hard work has been on display this spring in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League. He leads the league in scoring at 22.6 points per game. But despite his dominance on the AAU and high school level, Williams remains an underrated prospect.
“The rankings and things like that, I think people put a lot of stock into that, but you kind of have to look at who’s doing the rankings. It’s the nature of the beast this day and age,” said Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey. “But I think Kam, he works to be a player. He’s not caught up in rankings and things like that. He just wants to be the best player he can be. He’s certainly doing a great job of that.”
Never was this more evident than last Wednesday night at BCCC.
Williams’ every move has a purpose, yet each pass he makes and shot he takes looks effortless. His athleticism is staggering, as evidenced by a one-handed alley-oop, a reverse slam and a thunderous two-handed dunk off a fast break during a 20-minute scrimmage. And although he’s an incredibly effective 3-point shooter – 47 percent in EYBL play – Williams doesn’t settle for the triple if he can take a dribble or two inside the arc and convert from there.
“He puts it in the basket,” Clatchey said. “He does it in a variety of ways – transition, pull-ups, floaters, long range, gets to the free-throw line, open court, tip-ins, a little bit of a post game. Some guys, they can score, and some guys can shoot. He can do both. And he does it in a very efficient, productive manner.”
Said Williams: “I’ve been shooting all my life, so the confidence is there. When I miss, in my mind it’s like a shock, but I try not to let it [show] on the court.”
Reviews of Williams this spring have been almost unanimously positive – understandably so considering his production with Nike Baltimore Elite. But most talent evaluators have been reluctant to adjust their rankings.
Williams – a three-star prospect – isn’t listed on Rivals.com’s Top 150, which was updated last month. Scout.com rates him the No. 26 shooting guard nationally, but he is conspicuously absent from the recruiting service’s Top 100.
Recruiting analysts say he’s “too skinny, too small, he’s not 6-4 or 6-5,” Clatchey said. But “they’re not checking IDs when we play. Kam might be skinny, but there’s not a scale out there when we’re playing. He’s out there playing and getting it done. He had a great sophomore season, a great junior season, and I’m pretty sure he’s planning on a pretty damn good senior season.”
Some recruiting analysts are starting to overlook Williams’ perceived physical deficiencies and assess him simply on production. ESPN.com’s Dave Telep ranks Williams a four-star prospect and the No. 68 player nationally in the 2013 class. The Gaels guard’s ESPN profile offers an insightful description and reasoning for his four-star status.
“Whether it's with his high school or travel team, Williams gets cast in the role of scorer, specifically shooter. Leave him open, and he's nailing the shot. Moves exceptionally well so he'll get lost and then boom, count it.”