One year at Memphis taught Shawne Williams all he needed to know about his future. Calling his game "NBA-ready," the Tigers forward decided to remain in the NBA draft on Wednesday, signing with an agent and thereby giving up his remaining three years of NCAA eligibility.
"Staying in college might help my game, but not as much as on the NBA level," Williams said Wednesday evening. "The financial part will not always be there and it's time for me to take care of [my family]."
The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Williams averaged 13.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a freshman. He helped lead Memphis to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and the finals of the Oakland Regional, where the Tigers fell to UCLA, 50-45. After that loss, Williams originally told Memphis coach John Calipari he would return to school as a sophomore. But Williams said Calipari quickly told him to consider his decision more carefully.
"He looked at me like I was crazy and told me to wait a couple of weeks," Williams said. "He said he felt like it would be a good year for me to come out. He told me, 'Don't worry about me, kid. I'm going to be fine.' "
Calipari supported Williams' choice.
"Shawne is ready to take the next step in his professional basketball career without question," Calipari said in a statement. "He is going to be one of the great surprises of the NBA draft."
Agent Happy Walters of Immortal Sports, who will represent Williams along with Bill McCandless, said he's received excellent feedback from pro scouts who love Williams' size, shooting ability and 7-foot-3 wingspan at the small forward position.
"He's working out for nine teams picking between fifth and 15th," Walters said. "I think he's either somewhere in the lottery or shortly thereafter."
Walters said Williams will attend the Orlando pre-draft camp for medical evaluations, but will not play there, another sign that Williams is comfortable with his stock in what is considered a relatively weak draft. Walters stressed that Williams enjoyed his time at Memphis and leaves on excellent terms with Calipari.
"I wasn't pushing," Walters said. "Shawne loves school. At the same time, when NBA teams are telling you that you're going to be drafted in the first round and you know the financial struggle of your family each day, that's a different story."
Williams said he expects his former Memphis teammate, Darius Washington, who also declared without an agent, to remain in the draft as well.
"I feel like he's a first-round draft pick," Williams said. "I feel like his game is NBA-ready."
And he certainly sees that in his own game.
"I feel like if I can go to a good enough program, I can make an instant impact," Williams said. "I can shoot and I'm a versatile player."
Jordan Brenner is a contributor for ESPN The Magazine.