Jalen Williams worked out with several teams ahead of the NBA draft last year, and had a rather unique experience during his visit with the Oklahoma City Thunder: Head coach Mark Daigneault ran the workout.
Except Williams didn’t know who he was at the time.
Of course, the Thunder eventually selected Williams with the 12th pick out of Santa Clara. He was one of four players the team drafted, joining Chet Holmgren (second pick), Ousmane Dieng (11th pick) and Jaylin Williams (34th pick).
Williams also visited with Atlanta, Cleveland and Denver among other teams prior to the draft last year. In an interview with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Williams reflected on how that workout went with the Thunder and his first impression of his eventual coach.
It was a cool vibe going into it. When I was out there, I thought this wouldn’t be a bad place to be. I enjoyed the visit. I talked to (team president) Sam (Presti). It was the only place where the coach, Mark Daigneault, ran the whole workout. I’m going through the workout saying, ‘This guy is pretty good.’
I actually had no idea he was the head coach until afterwards (laughs). We had a cool interaction. Mark was talking to me the whole time, and I had no idea who he was. I’m thinking he was a trainer or somebody.
Williams is emerging as a key player with the Thunder this season, averaging 12.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals in 53 games. He previously earned Rookie of the Month honors and is fourth in scoring among all rookies and first in steals.
He was one of 11 first-year players selected to compete in the Rising Stars game on Friday at All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah. He called it a great honor to represent the organization and is eager to be teammates with Josh Giddey.
The rookie campaign by Williams is certainly going smoothly as the 21-year-old is beginning to pile up some personal accolades. The team is also performing at a high level and is firmly in the play-in race with a 27-29 record.