HAMPTON ——Troy Williams is a 17-year-old high school junior with a Twitter account. And, to date, 3,429 followers.
True, that's 3 million fewer than LeBron James. But Williams, Phoebus' high-flying wing and five-star recruit, is hot property. Take last Saturday morning, for example.
It's constant attention, which he enjoys (he has posted 23,258 tweets, after all) but also knows comes with a flip side. Wherever he goes, strangers want to ask about The Choice. And every off night is accompanied by message board nonsense that he's overrated and riding his Uncle Boo's coat tails.
"I'll go over to Virginia Beach, or somewhere, and a little kid will come up and ask, 'Are you going to UNC?' " he said. "Then a parent will come up and say, 'I'm a real big fan of UNC, I hope to see you there.' It don't see it as stressful. It's more of a responsibility to keep doing what I'm doing and make people proud.
"As for the talk on the message boards, I don't pay attention to that. Just let them think what they want to think, and I'll keep balling."
Balling got him this far. ESPNU's Super 60 rates Williams the No. 6 prospect in the Class of 2013. That's up two spots since the fall. He's ranked No. 7 by Scouthoops.com and No. 14 by Rivals.com.
Williams' dozen or so scholarship offers have been narrowed to five — Georgetown, Kentucky, North Carolina, Villanova and Virginia Tech. (That's alphabetically, by the way). He plans to announce his decision sometime between the end of junior season and the beginning of AAU in the spring.
Still, there are those who insist that all this hype is due to his uncle, Boo Williams, one of the most respected AAU basketball figures in the country. Boo gets a giggle out of that.
"Let me tell you, the people who do the rankings don't care about you or me," he said. "There's too much money involved to make a mistake. And a guy like (Kentucky coach John) Calipari isn't going to fly here on a private plane to watch an hour-long practice because of me."
Nor would UNC's Roy Williams come to Phoebus' gym the night after the Tar Heels' game at Virginia Tech. Nor would Villanova's Jay Wright fly down two nights before a crucial Big East game.
That said, Troy has felt the need to prove himself as something more than Boo's nephew.
"My freshman year, I never got a chance to play much because there were a lot of juniors and seniors in front of me," Troy said. "That summer, I was on one of my uncle's (AAU) teams. I needed then to show I could play and not go off his name."
He did so by exploding onto the national scene as a sophomore. And soon, colleges coaches and recruiting analysts saw an explosive 6-foot-6 athlete with prime-time skills.
No, he isn't completely polished. Sometimes he'll force a shot that Kobe himself couldn't make. Sometimes he'll turn the ball over trying to create a SportsCenter moment — because, sometimes, he can.
But in the open floor and around (above, really) the rim, there's unlimited potential. (Check out "Troy Williams Thunderous Dunk vs. Maury" on YouTube sometime).
Williams is averaging 18.5 points a game (nearly 2 ppg higher than last year) and is a lock to make All-Peninsula District for the second straight season. This despite the fact that every night, he's the focal point of every defensive game plan.
"Never before have I had guys face-guarding me the whole game," he said. "Even when they're on offense. As soon as a shot goes up, the first thing they do is look for me. I see myself as a target out here in the Peninsula District. But without competition, you're not going to get better."
OF NOTE: No. 6 prospect in the nation according to ESPNU … Averaging 18.5 ppg … Has scored 969 points in his career.