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A career-ending motorcycle accident after his rookie year with the Chicago Bulls didn't leave Jay Williams in the dark. He now works as an NCAA basketball analyst for ESPN and serves as motivational speaker. We caught up with Williams to discuss his AAU experiences and how he prepared himself for life after basketball.
ESPN RISE: What insights will you share with the players at the AAU Super Showcase?
Jay Williams: It's always about having the will and the passion to fight and work hard. Nothing's ever just given to you. I think the most important thing is that these kids take advantage of the stuff they're offered off the court in going to a great college and networking with alumni.
RISE: How did you approach AAU ball differently from the regular season?
Williams: Well, I had a knack for info. I would always ask different coaches, "What do I need to do? How can I get better?" I would tell them, "Be blunt with me. Don't hold anything back." The best experience a kid can have is when a coach is candid with him and tells him what he needs to do to be better.
RISE: Do you think top players should learn about post-basketball career options?
Williams: Yeah, definitely. They need to understand their value. I learned a valuable lesson my freshman year at Duke at an alumni event. My dad was there and he said, "Look at all these powerful people around here. Do you think basketball is going to be the thing that takes you to the elite level?" And I said, "Well, basketball can make me $50, $60 million." He's like, "Well, you're thinking really small, son. Think bigger." And that's when I started thinking about how I could capitalize on life during basketball. Before my sophomore year, I interned with a private investment firm in New York to learn about money, investing, stocks, bonds and things of that sort.
RISE: What was recovering from your motorcycle injury like?
Williams: I learned more about myself as a man at that time than any other time in my life. In the NBA, you get put up on this pedestal and things get blown out of proportion. So it was very humbling for me to go from dunking on Yao Ming to being told I might not be able to walk again. It was about fighting back and understanding who I was as a person.
RISE: What makes a player stand out from the crowd at an event like this?
Williams: An interesting thing you can find out about a lot of kids is how they approach the game. Is he serious or laughing before the game? Is he going to dominate you on every possession or is he going to dominate you when he wants to and then take three or four possessions off? Is he listening to his coach and being a sponge to learn more?