By John Leuzzi (@JohnLeuzziMJS)
Ryan Williams is getting a college basketball experience in high school at Malvern Prep.
His coach, former University of Pennsylvania standout Paul Romanczuk, has it set up this way on purpose.
“Malvern is really designed for how I feel college basketball (is),” Williams told City of Basketball Love over the phone Saturday. “The speed of it is faster than how we play at Malvern, but how you analyze the defense and take what they give you, play with it and the organization (of it) I feel is what we have at Malvern.”
The by-product of the culture Romanczuk has established has helped Williams emerge as one of the top guards in the area and get one step closer to playing at the collegiate level himself. On Friday afternoon, Williams cut his list of schools down to three — Fairfield, Iona and Columbia — making the announcement on Philly Pride AAU’s Twitter.
Malvern Prep and Philly Pride 2024 guard Ryan Williams has his list of schools down to Iona, Columbia and Fairfield. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)
“I would say so,” said Williams on whether he feels some weight is now off his shoulders by announcing his top schools. “It resembles the fact that this long process is almost over.”
The 6-foot-3 senior guard chose the Stags, Gaels and Lions over schools like Binghamton, Hofstra, Northeastern and Stony Brook amongst others.
“I (picked) schools like Malvern,” Williams said. “My family and I are really big on education, so we really picked what (schools) will challenge me as in education and what would challenge me as an athlete. I really think those three schools are really good (both) academic and athletic wise.”
He will make the first of three official visits later this month Aug. 23-25 to Fairfield. He will then go to Iona Sept. 1-2 before visiting Columbia Sept. 8-9.
The Phoenixville native said one of the things he is looking forward to on his official visits is learning how each program sees him fitting in.
“That’s something I really need to hear more of,” Williams said.
Although Williams has built relationships and connections with all three programs, he said Fairfield has been the one who has recruited him the longest.
“They started recruiting me at the beginning of my sophomore year and were one of my first ever offers,” said Williams, who was named to the All Inter-Ac Team this season. “The consistency of keeping in touch throughout my whole high school career is something I really appreciate because they could easily have just offered and went away.
“I like that part of the coaches (because) they just express belief in me. (Assistant) coach (James) Johns is the one I talk to the most. He sends me a lot of videos of what the play style is and I really like it.”
Of the three schools, Williams said Iona is one that entered the picture most recently as the Gaels didn’t offer him until this summer under new head coach Tobin Anderson, who led No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson to an upset victory over No. 1 overall seed Purdue in the NCAA Tournament this season. Anderson is entering his first season at the helm in New Rochelle taking over for Rick Pitino, who left for St. John’s this offseason.
“I got that offer after my last AAU tournament ever,” Williams said. “Ever since then, they've been texting me every day. I really like Coach Tobin and how he has confidence in his players.
“When FDU played Purdue before the game, (he was) like ‘If we win, it wouldn’t be an upset’ and that brought an insane amount of confidence into his players before the game even started so I really like that.”
Williams said he also likes the style of play at Iona.
“Their play style really is fast, getting up a lot of shots and I feel that's how I really want to play,” Williams said. “I feel that’s how I’m best at, running up and down, playing defense and scoring.”
Columbia assistant coach Tobe Carberry has been the main recruiter for Williams to join the Lions in the Ivy League.
“I really like how the coach described it as a rebuilding process,” Williams said. “They haven’t been the best in the last couple years but their recruits from this year are pretty good. And I liked how the coaches described how they’re taking baby steps to becoming an even better program.” Williams’ game has evolved over the last year both on the Under Armour 17U circuit with Philly Pride and at Malvern. He’s become more of a playmaker and more thoughtful with what he can do on the hardwood.
“(My sophomore season), I would just rely on shooting,” Williams said. “I thought that was the only way I could impact the game, but I started to figure out I can do something like defense. One of my coaches one day said, ‘Be a Division I player without scoring’ and to be honest, I really thought that wasn’t possible.”
He added: “It really helped me put a complete game into perspective. … I feel like it's going to make me a more effective player.”
Williams carried that mindset into the summer with Philly Pride as he continued to work on becoming more of a “complete player.”
The results paid dividends as he began to receive more interest from college coaches, who concurred with Williams becoming an all-around player in their feedback.
“Them emphasizing that really made me tune in and lock in on doing more than scoring because I feel like if a college coach sees it, then I should probably be paying attention to that,” Williams said.
Williams will announce his commitment Sept. 14, the day of his sister's birthday.
“(My family and I) really wanted me to be committed in September and with her going off to college, it’s just going to be my parents and I so we decided to have it on her birthday as a symbol to her that we are thinking about her,” Williams said.