Patrick Williams' high school coach predicts greatness originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Jacoby Davis played basketball with Patrick Williams’ father, Eddie, growing up in the Charlotte, N.C., area. Later, he coached Williams’ older brother, Kobie.
So Davis knows the family well.
And his early read on Patrick has turned out to be spot on now that Williams is a Chicago Bull, the fourth overall pick in Wednesday’s NBA draft.
“You just knew with that kid,” Davis said in a phone conversation.
Kind and curious off the court, Williams turned into something else on it. Davis saw it. He has coached NBA players Hassan Whiteside and Grant Williams and sent numerous other kids to Division I scholarships, including his son.
Between Williams’ sophomore and junior year at West Charlotte High, Davis told his son about Williams’ NBA potential. His son, Jacoby Jr., started working Williams out.
“He said, ‘Dad, you’re right,’” Davis Sr. said. “The thing about Patrick is he’s a great kid. He’s caring about people. But I will say he’s determined. When he puts his mind to something, that’s what he’s going to do.”
Whether that’s, in Davis’ words, “knocking his SAT (qualifying score) out of the park, first try” or keeping his point guard skills as he navigated a serious growth spurt, Williams chased his lofty dreams even as he stayed grounded.
“I would give his parents all the credit,” Davis said. “As his coach, everyone was texting me and congratulating me. But he has great parents. That’s where his foundation starts.
“He was one of the easier kids to coach because he was a great teammate. He was the kid in the locker room where if a JV kid was getting picked on, he’d be the one to come and say, ‘Leave him alone.’ That’s who he was. When he stepped on the court, he’s a different guy.
“He’s a winner. His goal is to do whatever it takes to win. If (he has) to be the best defensive player on the team, the best offensive player, whatever it takes, that’s what he’s going to do. He’s going to help his teammates to rise as well. He’ll be the one giving that encouragement, but he also don’t mind saying, ‘You gotta make that play.’ When he messes up, you best believe he’ll say, ‘That’s my fault. I didn’t make that play.’”
Davis said Williams stood about 5-foot-10 in middle school and would come to his gym to shoot around, watch his brother practice. Given that Williams came from a tall family, a running joke grew between future coach and pupil.
“I remember saying to him, ‘Are you going to ever grow, man?’” Davis said, laughing. “But he was always a point guard.”
As Williams grew to his current height near 6-8, nobody fully believed this last fact. Davis said Leonard Hamilton, Williams' coach for his lone season at Florida State, called and expressed disbelief at Williams’ skill, court vision and basketball IQ. As recently as Sunday night, according to Davis, a Bulls’ staffer called to question how much point guard Williams actually played in high school.
“This kid was our starting point guard,” Davis said. “He got us in position.”
Not until Williams’ senior year did Davis move him off the ball, a byproduct of all the double teams he faced. This freed up other primary ballhandlers. And it served as microcosm for Williams’ adaptability and team-first mentality, which flashed in even more pronounced fashion when he came off the bench for Hamilton.
“For three, four years, you’re the guy with the ball in your hands. Now it’s the most important time of the game and you’re taking the ball out and you’re the trail man or running to the corner. That’s different,” Davis said. “He focused on making the right play. He never complained. I’d even say, ‘You good with that?’ He was like, ‘I’m good, Coach. I want to win.’”
Williams and Davis did plenty of that, advancing to the Class 4A state championship game in, albeit a loss, Williams’ senior season. Davis, who admits to some bias when he declared “Chicago has the best one in the draft,” then chuckled when referencing another tough loss.
It came on the AAU scene in which he also coached Williams. It came against Coby White.
“Pat was a sophomore. Coby was a junior. Pat had a great game. There were 3 seconds left in the game. We were up. We had a chance to seal the game and someone was at the line, missed some free throws. We were only up two,” Davis said. “We said, ‘Don’t let Coby get the ball.’ Of course Coby got the ball. He goes up court and Pat closes out. He tried not to foul him so he jumps out to block the shot.
"Of course Coby throws up the shot and I think it was off backboard from half court to win the game. So it’s crazy that they’re up there on the same team.”