On Thursday, June 20, Providence Day alum Grant Williams ’16 was chosen by the Boston Celtics with their 22nd pick in the first round of the NBA draft. If the Tennessee Volunteer’s basketball past is a precursor to his basketball future, it’s a pretty sure bet he will be an NBA All-Star sometime in the very near future. For most of his high school and early college career, Williams’ talents have been underestimated. Despite his significant accomplishments at Providence Day, he was not highly recruited by Division I powerhouses and was leaning towards Yale until Tennessee’s head coach Rick Barnes and his staff saw something special in Williams and offered him. At 6-foot-7 many college coaches considered him too small to compete against the 7-footers and not quite quick enough for the power forward position. But it didn’t take very long for Williams to prove the doubters wrong and Coach Barnes a recruiting genius.
Looking back over Grant Williams’ career at Providence Day and the University of Tennessee, his list of accomplishments is pretty impressive. As the star of the Charger basketball team, Williams became one of only four high school players to ever be named The Charlotte Observer’s All-Observer Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons. Along with this recognition he also garnered Associated Press All-State, NCISAA All-State, CISAA All-Conference and Player of the Year, and South Charlotte Weekly Player of the Year honors. In 2016, he led the Chargers to the NCISAA state championship over a powerful High Point Christian team. Providence Day finished the season ranked No. 16 in USA Today’s national poll. The team was also one of only eight teams in the country to play in Dicks’ Sporting Goods’ high school national championship in New York. The Chargers lost to the #2 nationally ranked Montverde (FL) Academy in the opening round but Williams led the team with 12 points and 8 rebounds which was his final game as a Charger.
Grant Williams transition to the college game was seamless and the success and accolades just continued to multiply. During his freshman year he scored 402 points which ranked sixth in Vol history among freshmen. He appeared in all 32 games and actually started in 29 of them. At the conclusion of the season, he was named to the SEC All-Freshman team.
As a sophomore, Williams averaged 15.2 points and 6 rebounds per game and finished second on the team in blocked shots with 44 and fourth in assists with 66. Not only was he named to the first team All-SEC, but he also was honored the SEC Player of the Year. He was only the second player in Volunteer history to receive that honor as an underclassman…the other Vol to receive it was New York Knicks scoring legend Bernard King!
Not much changed during his Junior and final year as a Tennessee Volunteer. Williams once again was named the SEC Player of the Year becoming the first player since 1995 to repeat. Only ten players in the history of the SEC have accomplished that recognition including the Vols Bernard King and LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal and Pete Maravich. Williams led Tennessee to its first No. 1 national ranking in 11 years averaging 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game.
At the conclusion of his Junior season, the accolades continued to roll in. Grant Williams was named First Team All-American by every noteworthy organization including the Associated Press, NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches), Sporting News, USBWA (US Basketball Writers Association), Sports Illustrated, and Basketball Times.
The list of Grant Williams’ accomplishments over the past seven years is incredibly impressive, but despite the numerous changes that have taken place during this timeframe, one thing has always remained the same and can best be expressed by Providence Day’s head basketball coach Brian Field when interviewed by The Charlotte Observer’s Langston Wertz, Jr. “He’s a fierce competitor, but he is a giant teddy bear. That’s how I always described him. He’s a goofball. And he’s still the exact same Grant. He hasn’t turned into a guy who thinks he’s big time. He’s the same ol’ guy from Charlotte who’s always got a smile on his face, always clowning around and having fun and he will talk with anyone who wants to talk with him. Despite all of his success, he’s remained true to the person he is.”
In conclusion, following is a summary of just some of the major accomplishments during Grant Williams’ three years at the University of Tennessee taken from his profile page. For a complete list of statistics and accomplishments, go to: https://utsports.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=6755
FRESHMAN YEAR (2016-2017)
- SEC All-Freshman Team performer appeared in all 32 games, earning 29 starts.
- His 402 total points rank sixth all-time among Tennessee freshmen, trailing Bernard King (661), Allan Houston (609), Tobias Harris (521), Ernie Grunfeld (453) and Chris Lofton (410).
- Finished the year as Tennessee's second-leading scorer (12.6 ppg) while pacing the squad in rebounds (5.9 rpg) and blocked shots (1.9 bpg)
- His 61 blocked shots on the year shattered Tennessee's previous freshman record of 39 (C.J. Black, 1996-97) and ranked as the second-most ever recorded in a single season by a Vol; his 1.9 bpg average ranked third all-time for a single season and easily bested the previous freshman record of 1.41 (C.J. Black, 1996-97).
SOPHOMORE YEAR (2017-2018)
- 2018 SEC Player of the Year led the Vols in scoring (15.2 ppg), was second in blocks (44) and rebounding (6.0 rpg) and finished fourth in assists (66).
- First-Team All-SEC honoree scored at least 10 points in 29 of UT’s 35 games while leading the Vols in scoring in 12 contests and eclipsing the 20-point margin eight times.
- Ranked ninth in the SEC in scoring (16.1 ppg) and ninth in shooting percentage (.463) during league play despite being regularly double-teamed; scored 20-plus in five SEC contests.
- Joined Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Bernard King as the only Vols ever to earn SEC Play of the Year distinction as underclassmen.
JUNIOR YEAR (2018-2019)
- Completed the requirements for his bachelor’s degree (Supply Chain Management) in May.
- First player to win SEC Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons since 1995; Only 10 players have ever achieved the feat, including Bernard King and Dale Ellis and all-time greats such as Pete Maravich, Shaquille O’Neal and Corliss Williamson.
- Joined Bernard King and Dale Ellis as the only Vols to ever be named consensus first-team All-Americans by the NCAA.
- One of five players named a 2019 John R. Wooden Award finalist.
- One of four players named a 2019 Citizen Naismith Trophy Men's Player of the Year finalist.
- One of four players named a 2018-19 Oscar Robertson Trophy finalist.
- One of five players named a 2019 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award finalist.
- Was one of 10 semifinalists named to the 2019 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award.
- Was one of only 10 Division I players to total more than 500 points, 250 rebounds and 100 assists (696/278/117).
- 2019 NCAA Unanimous First Team All-American (AP, NABC, Sporting News, USBWA)
- 2019 AP First Team All-American
- 2019 NABC First Team All-American
- 2019 Sporting News First Team All-American
- 2019 USBWA First Team All-American
- 2019 Sports Illustrated First Team All-American
- 2019 Basketball Times First Team All-American
- 2019 Stadium First Team All-American
- 2019 Lute Olson All-America Team
- 2019 SEC Player of the Year (AP & Coaches)