He produced an All-American-caliber junior season. He earned a degree in psychology. He led Gonzaga to its first Final Four in program history.
Nigel Williams-Goss raised his stock about as high as it will go this past season, so it’s difficult to fault him for forgoing his final year of college eligibility and turning pro on Tuesday even if he’s not a lock to be selected in this point guard-heavy draft class.
Williams-Goss averaged 16.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists for a Gonzaga team that won 37 games, earned a No. 1 seed and lost by six to North Carolina in the national title game. The 6-foot-3 point guard will have a long, lucrative career playing professional basketball somewhere even if he’s unable to play his way onto an NBA team next fall.
“After many discussions with my coaches and family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft with representation,” Williams-Goss wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “I am 100% confident in this decision and believe I am prepared both mentally and physically to take this step in my career and my life. As always, I give all glory to God for granting me this opportunity. I will continue to represent the entire Gonzaga community to the best of my ability.”
The departure of Williams-Goss means Gonzaga will lose four key players from its best team in history. Freshman center Zach Collins is also entering the draft and seniors Przemek Karnowski and Jordan Mathews are both graduating.
Without Williams-Goss, Gonzaga probably won’t contend for a national title again next season, but the Zags shouldn’t fall too far. This is still a preseason top 20 team with four of last year’s top eight players returning, a strong group of incoming players and the possibility of a graduate transfer or two coming aboard.
The frontcourt rotation should feature returners Johnathan Williams and Killian Tillie as well as redshirt freshman Jacob Larsen. That unit can’t match the low-post scoring and rim protection provided by Karnowski and Collins, but it will be plenty solid.
The strength of the backcourt will depend largely on how big a leap Josh Perkins can take as the primary ball handler in the absence of Williams-Goss. Silas Melson will be an asset at wing and freshmen Zach Norvell, Jesse Wade and Corey Kispert could make an immediate impact.
That’s a nucleus formidable enough to keep the Zags relevant nationally and in contention for the WCC title. Saint Mary’s should again be a top 20 team if center Jock Landale returns, while talent-laden but underachieving BYU has an excellent chance to return to the NCAA tournament if star center Eric Mika opts to withdraw from the draft next month.
Had Williams-Goss opted to return, he might have made a run at national player of the year and Gonzaga would have been a threat to return to the Final Four.
You can’t fault his decision though. In just one season at Gonzaga, the former Washington transfer already left one heck of a legacy