Jeff Griffith (@Jeff_Griffith21)
Jelani Williams and Eddie Scott have been AAU teammates with Team Takeover (Md.) since they were 13.
They've been friends even longer, since they were 11.
So ever since Scott committed to the University of Pennsylvania in late July, he made a point of aggressively recruiting Williams, who at that point had his list narrowed to two schools--Penn and Rice.
“Eddie recruited me hard, he committed a couple months ago, he’s been talking to me about it, he’s been constantly in my ear,” Williams said. “He’s talked (Penn) up a lot.”
Safe to say, it worked, as Williams committed to play for the Quakers after an official visit to the Philadelphia campus this weekend, despite having initially planned to hold off on his decision until October.
In his obligatory commitment tweet, Williams made it official, using his signature hashtag, “#AllForYou” in memory of one of his biggest fans, his grandfather, who passed away last summer due to skin cancer.
“He was one of my biggest supporters," Williams said. "He wasn’t always optimistic about my performance but he kept it real with me, so everything I do now is for him."
Coming from an elite school both on the basketball court and in the classroom -- Sidwell Friends in Washington, D.C., the same school as President Barack Obama's daughters and many other D.C. notables -- the idea of having a similar set up at Penn sold Williams to sign on to the basketball team and the esteemed Wharton School of Business.
“I felt like it would be best, it feels like it will be the best school for what I want to do in terms of basketball and outside of basketball,” Williams said. “It’s very similar to the situation at my high school, a strong high academic and basketball situation, I can be a playmaker and play the way I want to play, and also from a social aspect, it just appears to be everything I was looking for in a school.”
Williams, who's from the D.C. area, also certainly liked the idea of going to college a little over 100 miles from home, as opposed to a little over 1,000 to play for the Rice Owls in Houston, Texas.
“I really liked the situation (at Rice), I have a lot of respect for their coaches, they’re doing a lot of good things over there and have a great program,” he said. “I just felt like it would be better for me to be closer to home and be closer to my family.”
While the Owls’ coaches made a good connection with Williams, it was ultimately his relationship with the staff at Penn that won out.
Head coach Steve Donahue, who is set to enter his second year at Penn, wasn’t around when the Quakers first began recruiting Williams, but has developed a strong relationship with his newest commit since joining the staff last summer.
“It’s great, they’ve been recruiting me since my freshman year; Coach Donahue wasn’t there but the other assistants were,” he said. “Those relationships started really early and I think had a lot to do with what my decision ended up being. Coach Donahue has been great, he’s been beside me since day one, when I’m playing well and not playing well, he’s always been there for me, and that was big in my decision making process.”
WIth his commitment to Penn, Williams will be joining a deep stable of guards, and will have the opportunity to play behind talented, experienced players at the guard position like junior Antonio Woods, and sophomores Jake Silpe and Jackson Donahue.
And as he is already the fourth player the Quakers have added in the 2017 class--Williams, Scott, point guard Jordan Salzman and center Mark Jackson comprise the next group of incoming Quakers--he’s undoubtedly excited about the outlook for his four years at the Ivy League school.
“I think we’re building something special,” he said. “Our commits for 2017 is another great class to put on top of the class they had last year, so I think that they’re building something really special, and we’re going to be really good."