MAITLAND—Marcus Williams was projected by some scouting services to be the No. 1 point guard prospect in the 2006 NBA draft. He hoped to be a top-10 pick, but ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round where the New Jersey Nets selected him with the 22nd pick.
Though Williams has kept a positive attitude, saying he sees his slippage in the draft as "being based on team needs," this is just the first of many challenges he will face while transforming from a college star playing for the University of Connecticut to an NBA player.
"I'm trying to improve from college, stay active and play hard every game," said Williams.
This was evident the first two days of the league, when he scored 24 points with 12 assists in his first game against the Orlando Magic, and 16 points with nine assists his second game against the Miami Heat.
Williams, however, took a sudden drop, not scoring in the next three halves: the whole third game against the Indiana Pacers, and the first half of the fourth game against the Charlotte Bobcats.
"I think it was fatigue. I'm pretty tired." Williams said.
He said his weaknesses are "getting lazy and ball watching."
"[Game day four] I struggled the first half but the second half I stepped it up" said Williams.
The head coach of the Nets, Lawrence Frank, said that Williams has a lot to work on as a young player.
"Competition raises to another level," Frank said.
"I've got to play every play consistently." William said, not to mention his struggle with defense, which he's also focused on improving this summer. In the first four games of the summer league, Williams had 13 defensive rebounds and five steals.
Though Williams has already experienced some minor drawbacks, there's a lot of hope for his future in the NBA.
When he reports to the Nets' preseason camp, Williams will be the back up to All-Star Jason Kidd.
"He's willing to take me under his wing and I hope I can just learn from him" said Williams about his mentor. He'll also have the opportunity to work alongside veteran teammates such as Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson on the wings.
Having a former college teammate alongside him could help, too.
"Having Marcus is definitely an advantage. It's a great support system for each other," said Josh Boone, who starred with Williams at Connecticut. He was Williams' college roommate and was selected by the Nets with the No. 23 pick.
"I think he's played well for his first taste of NBA ball," said the Nets President Rod Thorn. "Defensively, he has many things to work on and get more attentive to."
Williams showed his passing ability at the summer league. Through four games, he led the league with 37 assists, averaging 9.3 per game.
"He's a giver," Frank said. "He makes other players better."
In drafting Williams the Nets have opened up opportunities to strengthen their team as well as for Williams to develop in to a great NBA player.
Frank said, "I think he has a chance to have a good, special career."
Said Thorn: "He'll fit right in with our team."
Sheyla Perez is a senior at Osceola High School. Her Institute mentor is reporter Shannon Owens.