One of the best defensive players in college basketball is taking a recruiting visit to UK

One of the best defensive players in college basketball is in the NCAA transfer portal, and he’s taking a recruiting visit to Kentucky this weekend.

Amari Williams — a 6-10 forward with a 7-foot-5 wingspan — developed into a top defensive player over the last four seasons at Drexel, a Philadelphia school that plays in the Coastal Athletic Association.

Williams entered the NCAA transfer portal last month and will be on a recruiting visit to Lexington on Sunday and Monday.

On Thursday, it was reported by Joe Tipton of On3 Sports that Kentucky is part of Williams’ top three list of schools for next season. Kentucky, St. John’s and Mississippi State make up that list.

Williams’ visit to UK this weekend will be his final official visit from the transfer portal.

A native of England, Williams’ defensive credentials are impressive: He won the last three Coastal Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year awards and led the conference in blocks in each of the last three seasons.

He was the first player from the transfer portal to set up a visit to Kentucky with new UK head coach Mark Pope in place. News of Williams’ scheduled visit to Kentucky surfaced a few hours before Pope was formally introduced as UK’s head coach on Sunday afternoon at a packed Rupp Arena.

Across 105 total games played with the Dragons, Williams boasts career averages of 10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.6 assists per game.

He was a CAA First Team selection in each of the last two seasons, and also averaged more than 12 points per game for Drexel during both the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons.

Drexel’s Amari Williams (22) has been named the Coastal Athletic Association defensive player of the year in each of the past three seasons.
Drexel’s Amari Williams (22) has been named the Coastal Athletic Association defensive player of the year in each of the past three seasons.

“When you hear Amari Williams’ name, you think of his defensive presence ... and his elite ability to pass. That is what has gotten him the attention of NBA scouts,” Drexel head coach Zach Spiker told City of Basketball Love, a Philadelphia basketball-focused publication, last April. “... Some big men are wired differently. He’s wired to block shots and has great vision to pass. He took strides in getting and creating his own buckets.”

Last season, Williams led Drexel in rebounds (7.8 per game) and blocks (1.8 per game), and was ranked second in points (12.2 per game), assists (1.9 per game) and steals (0.8 per game). Williams also committed a team-high 2.4 turnovers for a Drexel team that went 20-12 overall, 13-5 in league games and lost in the quarterfinals of the CAA tournament.

Per KenPom, Williams had the 28th-best defensive rebounding percentage in the country (26.2%) and the 65th-best offensive rebounding percentage (12.7%) last season. Also per KenPom, Williams excelled nationally when it came to block percentage (8.5%, which was 39th in the nation) and fouls drawn per 40 minutes (6.8 fouls drawn, which was 23rd).

Something that’s also abundantly clear from studying the tape and advanced analytics behind Williams’ most recent college basketball season?

For being one of the best defensive bigs in the sport, Drexel also asked a lot from Williams on offense.

Per KenPom, Williams ranked 18th in the nation in percentage of possessions used, which is defined as “credit or blame to a player when his actions end a possession, either by making a shot, missing a shot that isn’t rebounded by the offense or committing a turnover.”

Williams had a percentage of possessions used of 31.8% last season with the Dragons.

When Williams entered the NCAA transfer portal last month, he also declared for the 2024 NBA draft. According to college basketball statistician Evan Miyakawa, Williams ranks as the No. 106 overall transfer portal player. Williams is not listed by ESPN among that organization’s top-100 prospects for the 2024 NBA draft.

Should he elect to come to Kentucky, Williams would instantly slide into the projected starting lineup for Pope’s first UK squad.

A complete roster transformation is underway ahead of Pope’s first season as the UK head coach.

Aaron Bradshaw (Ohio State), Joey Hart (Ball State) and Zvonimir Ivisic (Arkansas) are players from UK’s 2023-24 squad that will transfer to new schools. Additionally, Jordan Burks, Adou Thiero and D.J. Wagner are also still in the NCAA transfer portal.

Also from last season’s squad, Rob Dillingham, Justin Edwards, Ugonna Onyenso and Reed Sheppard have declared for the 2024 NBA draft. Tre Mitchell and Antonio Reeves have exhausted their college eligibility.

Five of the six players that Calipari had lined up as part of Kentucky’s 2024 recruiting class have decommitted from the UK program, including all three of Kentucky’s McDonald’s All-American recruits. In-state guard Travis Perry, the all-time leading scorer in Kentucky high school boys basketball history, is the only one of those six recruits expected to remain committed to UK.

Collin Chandler, a combo guard and former BYU signee, announced Tuesday morning that he would be following Pope to Kentucky. Chandler was a four-star prospect in the 2022 recruiting class before taking a two-year mission trip.

UK was among the top three schools for former BYU and Charlotte center Aly Khalifa. But on Thursday, Khalifa announced he would be transferring to Louisville and redshirt the 2024-25 season.

College basketball players have until May 1 to enter the transfer portal. The early-entry deadline for the 2024 NBA draft is April 27, and players who enter the draft with remaining NCAA eligibility will have until May 29 to remove their names from consideration and return to school.

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