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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Memphis Commercial Appeal's Geoff Calkins on Shawne Williams


At this point, is there really any doubt?

Geoff Calkins

May 16, 2006

A handy-dandy pronunciation guide for NBA broadcasters next year: Shawne, as in gone. At this point, it's clear he's out of here, isn't it? Shawne Williams is not going to be playing for the Memphis Tigers next year. He's not going to lead the home team's charge into the Final Four. He's going to remain in the NBA draft, get picked somewhere in the first round and fulfill the promise he made when he first committed to Memphis.

"I'm on the one-year plan," he said.

That was back in November of 2003.

But now that we know Williams is working out with the same company that helped Mario Williams become the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, it's plain the plan hasn't changed any.

The company is called Athletes' Performance. It's located in Los Angeles.

The other day, John Calipari said Williams was in Los Angeles training "with friends and family."

Hmmmmm.

Mario Williams worked out at Athletes' Performance. Connecticut point guard Marcus Williams is working out there even now.

Mario, Marcus and Shawne.

The Williams family, anyone?

Not that there's anything in the NCAA rule book that prevents potential draft choices from working out in Los Angeles. But if a player decides to take his name out of the draft and return to school, he has to account for the cash he's spent in the meantime.

For Williams, that would include the round-trip flight to California, the food and drink once he's out there, the hotel, the rental car and the charge for the actual training.

Charlie Wright, general manager of the Los Angeles facility, said the price "isn't important." An industry insider said it could be anywhere from $10,000-$20,000.

Could Williams pay all that back if he wanted to return to Memphis?

Uh, if he has a really big bake sale.

Or his buddy, Cowboy, could come up with the cash. Cowboy's real name is Eric Robinson. He's a cousin of Williams, and provided Williams the flashy truck he drove all last year. The same truck Kareem Cooper was driving when he was picked up for possession of marijuana.

So it's possible Cowboy could ride to the rescue again. But, c'mon, people, let's be grownups here.
Williams isn't training at the same facility as Mia Hamm and Curt Schilling because he's coming back to Conference USA. He's training there because he's jumping to the only league that can pay him millions.

Even before the NCAA Tournament began, Leon Williams, Shawne's grandfather, said, "I think he should go."

Most relatives don't come right out and say things like that. They say it's up to the kid, or they'll decide in due course, or something similarly noncommittal.

"If he can get guaranteed money this year," said Leon Williams, "why wait for something to happen?"

Hard to argue, isn't it? Williams is poor. He's always been poor. He has a chance to change his life forever.

Could he work himself higher in the lottery if he came back for one more season?

Possibly. But the draft is particularly weak this year because the high school kids have been forced to wait by the NBA's new age limit. Next year, Williams will be compared to Thaddeus Young and Greg Oden.

He could also get hurt (See Willis McGahee). His stock could drop for no good reason (See Matt Leinart).

"He could always come back and pay his own way to college," said Leon Williams.

But here's the best part of the Shawne Williams story: Even if he doesn't come back, it's hard to say his time at Memphis was wasted.

Usually, the one-year wonders make you question the entire enterprise. Dajuan Wagner's year at Memphis seems like a joke in retrospect.

Shawne Williams actually learned some things, and not just on the basketball court. He learned to study. He learned he could learn.

"College is fun," he said, late in the season.

This is a kid who once asked a Commercial Appeal reporter "what college is like." Because, deep inside, he wasn't sure he could cut it.

Now he knows he can. He's also a possible lottery pick. By any measure, isn't that a success story?

So he works out in Los Angeles, and doesn't appear to be coming back, and here's hoping the NBA broadcasters remember that handy-dandy pronunciation guide.

Shawne, as in gone.

With gratitude and best wishes.

To reach Geoff Calkins, call him at 901-529-2364

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