JeremiahWilliamshad a plan. And that plan was going along swimmingly until everything changed in a blink of an eye in the middle of March.
Like so many players in the state, particularly those uncommitted college prospects who were still playing for their team and themselves, the months of March and April were set to be pivotal ones forWilliams. As he played out the season as one of the state’s best uncommitted prospects, he would quickly turn his attention full-heartedly to recruiting.
Simeon lost to Young in a Class 4A sectional semifinal game March 11, and then the coronavirus immediately took over everyone’s world, including the IHSA shutting down the state tournament shortly after Simeon’s season-ending defeat.
WhileWilliamsadmits “the loss hurts a little less knowing the season was shut down,” he still thinks about that game quite often. It certainly left a bad taste in his mouth. He had visions of leading Simeon to Peoria and winning a state championship.
But what he didn’t expect after that loss was for his recruitment to completely turn upside down.
Following a breakout junior season at St. Laurence ––Williamswas a Sun-Times All-Area selection after averaging 18.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 blocks a game –– he made the move to Simeon, transferring to the state powerhouse for his senior season.
The plan while at Simeon was to improve as a player, enhance his stock as a prospect, play out his final high school campaign and then focus on recruiting when the season ended. Again, all was going as planned –– Simeon won a city championship andWilliamswas thriving as a player over the second half of the season.
But the coronavirus slowed down the end game ––his own recruitment. The season ended butWilliamshad a whole lot left on his plate.
A host of mid-major programs had been involved withWilliamsfor quite some time. But all the uncertainty and the recruiting roadblocks caused by these unforeseen times leftWilliamsscrambling a bit. There would be no traditional recruiting process.
Williamshad official visits to take, but he couldn’t take them. That experience and opportunity was taken away. So there was a good chance he could end up signing with and heading to a school he had never seen in person.
“It was difficult,”Williamssaid of finalizing a college decision under the circumstances. “To be honest, I was a little down about it at first, the not being able to go visit campuses and take normal visits. But I adjusted, went with the flow, and I am very excited about having made the decision and having it over. I’m ready to get to work.”
Williamsdecided on Temple, a program and coaching staff that was a little late to the party. But head coach Aaron McKie, assistant coach Chris Clark and the history of Temple basketball made an immediate impression on the talented and versatile 6-4 guard.
Through a whole lot of phone calls, text messages and Zoom conference calls,Williamsquickly developed a relationship with Temple’s coaching staff.
“To me it’s always been about relationships,” he said. “Although I didn’t have a lot of time with Temple, the first impression they made was what stood out to me. We connected over that short time.”
Williamsspent time fact-checking and doing his own homework. Very quickly, the idea of playing at Temple and in the American Athletic Conference with the likes of Memphis, Cincinnati, Houston, SMU, UConn and Wichita State is what interestedWilliams. This was a program that’s been to the NCAA Tournament 33 times, the most recent being last season. Temple, in fact, is the fifth-most winningest men’s basketball program of all times, and it’s where the great John Chaney coached.
But that first impression with the coaching staff, he says, is what opened the door.
“Coach McKie and coach Clark were real with me and we hit it off,” saysWilliams. “They made an impression very quickly. And I know it’s a cliché, but what they do fits me and my style of play both offensively and defensively. I have a chance to go play in that and play at a very high level there.”
The move to Simeon,Williamsbelieves, has only helped and prepared him for Temple and the rigors of college and college basketball. He believes Simeon provided him advantages both on and off the court. He says he “took a chance” with his move to Simeon, particularly when he had emerged as the key cog while starring at St. Laurence. There was a definite adjustment period at Simeon that led to some early frustrations at times.
“It not only helped me as a player, but I think it helped me as a person in my one year at Simeon,” saysWilliams. “I dealt with some adversity in the early part of the season where I had to figure some things out and adjust. It helped me grow. Simeon made me a better player. Coach Rob [Smith] and the coaches on the staff taught me things that I think will prepare me for college and help me right away.”