Mikey Williams announces he's transferring to UCF

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 28: San Ysidros Mikey Williams plays during a high school basketball game against Las Vegas Bishop Gorman Jan. 28, 2023 in San Diego. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Mikey Williams was once the top-ranked recruit in the Class of 2023. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

Mikey Williams, the ballyhooed basketball prospect whose college career has been delayed by gun charges and a subsequent plea deal, has apparently found a college willing to give him an opportunity to play.

Williams announced Friday afternoon on Instagram that he has committed to UCF, adding a prayer emoji in the caption and the phrase “all I needed was a chance.”

The commitment comes only four days after Williams parted with the University of Memphis and entered the transfer portal. Attorney Troy P. Owens told Yahoo Sports earlier this week that Williams chose to transfer because the university had shown that his rejoining the Memphis basketball program was “not a priority.”

Williams had hoped to play for Memphis this season after reaching his plea deal on Nov. 30, but weeks went by and his status didn’t change. Then, according to Owens, Williams learned that the university committee that was reviewing his situation would also decide if he would be allowed to play for Memphis during the 2024-25 basketball season.

“This was not something that Mr. Williams even thought was up for discussion,” Owens said. “This caused him to take immediate action to protect the prospect of him playing collegiate basketball in the 2024-2025 season.”

Once a young phenom trumpeted as the best player in the 2023 class, Williams amassed more than 1 million social media followers before he played his first high school basketball game. He became one of the early faces of the name, image and likeness era, signing a lucrative, first-of-its-kind endorsement deal with Puma as a junior in high school.

Even before his arrest, however, Williams’ star had begun to fade. He plummeted to No. 71 in Rivals’ final Class of 2023 rankings after he stopped participating in major grassroots events and underwhelmed during his senior season. Many major colleges stopped recruiting him, and interest from NBA scouts cooled.

Williams planned to play for Memphis this season, but his basketball career has been on hold since a late-night incident last spring that led to his arrest on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.

Angry that visitors unexpectedly showed up to the $1.2 million hilltop home he owns east of San Diego, Williams allegedly threatened to shoot them. Then he allegedly fired a handgun at their vehicle as they drove away, damaging the trunk and rear windshield but leaving all six occupants unharmed.

The nine felony charges that Williams initially faced carried a penalty of up to 30 years in prison, but his attorneys were able to negotiate a plea deal to help him avoid jail time. If he successfully completes 80 hours of community service, attends cognitive behavior therapy, gun safety and anger management classes and has no new legal issues before his Aug. 12 sentencing hearing, the single felony charge against Williams will be converted to a misdemeanor.

Owens made it clear to Yahoo Sports earlier this week that Williams wanted to continue his basketball career at the college level. Asked whether Williams could explore turning pro and playing overseas or in the G-League, Owens said, "At this time, Mr. Williams is only considering NCAA basketball options."

Now it appears that Williams’ next stop will be a UCF program that has one all-time NCAA tournament victory since transitioning to Division I nearly four decades ago. The Knights (10-4, 1-1), coached by Johnny Dawkins, are in their first season in the Big 12 and are days removed from a landmark victory over Kansas.

It's not clear when Williams will be eligible to play for UCF. He signed with Memphis and was on the team roster this season, but he never played for the Tigers nor participated in team activities.

UCF offers Williams a platform to rehabilitate his image on and off the floor.

He says all he needed was a chance.

Now he’ll have an opportunity to prove it.