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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shawne Williams Headed for the NBA

Williams headed to NBA

By Gary Parrish, Memphis Commercial Appeal
May 26, 2006

Shawne Williams spent Thursday at the Los Angeles Lakers' practice facility conducting his first private workout as a full-fledged professional. Everything was cool, until he looked up. "I saw somebody in this room up top looking down, and then I knew it was Phil Jackson," Williams said by cell phone from L.A. "It was the weirdest thing ever in life. I just couldn't believe how this is really real."

Really real, and really official now that Williams has signed with Immortal Sports Agency. The byproduct is that the 6-9 forward no longer has the option of returning for his sophomore season at the University of Memphis, meaning those college classes have been substituted with a whirlwind tour of workouts that includes next week's evaluations for the Bulls, Knicks and Sixers. "He's going to work out for teams as high as fifth or sixth in the draft and a good portion of the teams down to 15," said Happy Walters, who will represent Williams along with Bill McCandless. "He's definitely a first-round pick."

Williams was the overwhelming selection for Conference USA's Freshman of the Year while averaging 13.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest, and following the Tigers' loss to UCLA in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament he didn't eliminate the idea of returning to school. However, when the Hamilton High product via Laurinburg (N.C.) Institute Prep took residency at Athletes' Performance three weeks ago it became clear he was in the draft for good despite his public statements about keeping his options open.

The cost of training at Athletes' Performance -- a world-class facility featuring a clientele of Brett Favre, Curt Schilling and Mia Hamm -- reportedly ranges from $10,000 to $20,000.
So upon admission, Williams had all but forfeited his eligibility considering he would've been asked to repay charges without the help of an outside influence to maintain his amateur status with the NCAA.

Rather than fight that battle, Williams made the only logical move. He signed with Immortal Sports and turned his focus forward.

"This is what I've always wanted to do," Williams said. "I'm working harder than I've ever worked because now I'm looking at this as a job."

Speaking of jobs, John Calipari now apparently has one in front of him. The seventh-year Memphis coach will enter next season having lost his top three scorers, considering Rodney Carney (17.2 points per game) was a senior on last year's team and sophomore point guard Darius Washington (13.4 points per game) has, like Williams, labeled himself an early entrant into the NBA Draft.

Technically, Washington still has until June 18 to withdraw and return to Memphis. But sources within the program have long told The Commercial Appeal there is little chance of that happening, and that Washington, who is now training at IMG Academy in Florida, will remain in the draft despite having no first-round guarantee.

Add it up, and the Tigers are projected to have just 10 scholarship players, eight of whom will be freshmen or sophomores. But one guy not concerned is Williams, who insisted he'll follow his old teammates every game while expecting nothing short of another league title and run in the NCAA Tournament.

"It's just like (former Tiger) Billy Richmond said about us; they're going to be loaded like a baked potato," Williams said. "I feel Antonio (Anderson) will be able to take the place of the shooter that Rodney was, CDR (Chris Douglas-Roberts) is one of the best finishers out there and Robert Dozier is just another me. So everything that left is coming back, just in other people. And I don't believe the fans have to worry at all."

-- Gary Parrish: 529-2365

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