By Dylan Lutey (@dylan_lutey)
Ryan Williams’ basketball journey started at age 5 with him shooting on his hoop in his driveway and playing in a local Y-league. Twelve years later, now 17, Williams' basketball journey landed him the opportunity to fulfill one of his life-long dreams.
The 6-foot-4 Malvern Prep and Philly Pride guard announced that he had officially committed to Northeastern University via Instagram on Thursday.
“It was always a dream of mine to be able to play division one basketball because that's what I watched,” Williams told City of Basketball Love over the phone Thursday. “I really watched more college basketball than NBA as a kid. I was still watching the NBA, but it was just the excitement that college basketball brought to other people.”
The decision was finalized Wednesday night after Williams had a conversation with Northeastern head coach Bill Coen, who made an appearance at the Friars’ open gym. By the end of a phone call later that night Williams committed to play for the Huskies.
Malvern Prep guard Ryan Williams announced his commitment to Northeastern on Thursday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“It’s definitely a weight off my shoulders,” Williams said in response to how he felt now that the long college process was over. “I feel like I get to be a regular senior kid now. I get to play basketball (and) do all the other stuff a normal kid would do.”
It was a special and exciting day for Williams as one would expect. However, it was also a special day for an important person in his life. He had purposely planned his decision day to be the same day as his sister’s birthday.
“We're really celebrating (her birthday) today,” Williams said. “This commitment is really almost an afterthought because she means the world to me and my parents. Today is really her day.”
Given how important family clearly is to Williams, it may not be so surprising he picked Northeastern over Fairfield, Iona and Columbia, which were the original schools he announced as his Top 3. He took an official visit to Northeastern's campus Sept. 1-3, replacing the previously scheduled Iona visit on those dates. He came away really impressed with the “family-based aspect they brought to the basketball (program).”
“For example (out of the) head coach’s four assistants, three of them played at Northeastern for him and the other one was his college coach,” Williams said.
Assistants Brian Mcdonald (2006-10), Manny Adako (2006-10) and Joel Smith (2009-13) all played for Coen. The fourth coach, Tom Murphy, coached Coen at Hamilton College and gave Coen his first coaching job as an assistant under him from 1987-89.
Williams also mentioned that the NIL money and academic experience they had to offer him as reasons for his commitment to Northeastern. The excellent, flexible, and unique academic experience combined with the location of the campus in Boston was very intriguing.
“Their co-op (program) really stuck out to me,” Williams said. “That (will allow) me to be there in the summer and take some summer classes while still working out with the team and all the coaches because they'll be down there in the summer.”
“Then there’s the location,” he added. “There's a lot of outlets in Boston that I can really use to my advantage.”
He plans to major in something business related, “probably economics”. The co-op program will allow him to gain real-world experience in addition to the traditional classroom experience.
With his college locked in, Williams said “it’s almost relaxing,” but he also understands it’s one thing to make it to the next level and it’s another to have success. He has a strong work ethic that he knows will only have to improve as he goes to play at the college level.
“I feel like just working out two times a week… is not really going to get you better because I feel like you just gotta build that muscle memory into your head,” Williams said. “I really believe that (getting) 1% better every day is valuable.”
Williams averaged 17.6 points, 4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and also made a team-high 50 three-pointers last season. He earned First Team All-State Non-PIAA honors and All Inter-Ac First Team honors. On any given night he showed he could pour in 20+ points and also showed off the ability to be a playmaker.
However, he understands he needs to continue to improve in some areas based on the role his future coaching staff wants him to play. The Northeastern coaching staff envisions him as a, “scoring point guard who puts up points and facilitates.”
“That's something I need to work on, just learning how to manage both of those,” Williams said. “Usually, I either do one really well and the other one not so well. I feel like I just need to find that balance before going to the Northeastern next year.”
The coaching staff also wants to see Williams get stronger, better defensively, and more complete offensively. Williams acknowledged the importance of being a more complete player at the next level.
“I feel like during my sophomore year, I really just (approached the game) with a score and nothing else (mentality),” Williams said. “If I wasn't scoring, I wasn't really giving you anything else. I feel like in college basketball, I can't do that because if I'm not scoring then I'm just going to sit on the bench if I'm not doing anything else.”
Williams looks forward to embracing the challenge of playing at the next level and is also confident that he will carry his high school success to the D-1 level.
“I feel like the combination of my ability to score and just my love for the game of basketball,” he said are attributes that will help him have success at the next level. “I feel like that if I pair that with confidence at the college basketball level…that's going to help me succeed.”