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Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams puts in time, miles to audition for NBA teams

UPDATED: Tue., June 19, 2018, 6:34 p.m.

Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams walks past a mural of L.A. Lakers great Kobe Bryant before practice March 21 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams walks past a mural of L.A. Lakers great Kobe Bryant before practice March 21 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Johnathan Williams has been everywhere, man, he’s been everywhere.

The former Gonzaga forward has toured the country the past few months auditioning for teams in advance of Thursday’s NBA Draft.

And yes, that has taken Williams to several cities and states mentioned in the lyrics of the popular travel tune.

Gonzaga guards Josh Perkins, left, and Silas Melson, right, listen as forward Johnathan Williams speaks during a news conference for the NCAA Tournament on March 21 in Los Angeles. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Gonzaga guards Josh Perkins, left, and Silas Melson, right, listen as forward Johnathan Williams speaks during a news conference for the NCAA Tournament on March 21 in Los Angeles. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

By Williams’ count, he’s had 12 workouts, including a pro day. That doesn’t include the Portsmouth (Virginia) Invitational in April, or three team workouts last year, when he submitted his name for the draft before opting to return for his senior season.

In one grueling three-day stretch, he worked out for the Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets.

“You only get to do this once,” Williams said in a phone interview earlier this week. “You might get sick of traveling, living out of a suitcase, but you have to enjoy every moment. A lot of kids would love to be in this position.”

Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams dunks over Loyola Marymount forward Zafir Williams on March 3 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams dunks over Loyola Marymount forward Zafir Williams on March 3 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Williams has embraced the journey, which includes being able to keep several workout shirts and/or No. 3 jerseys from NBA teams, while stockpiling mileage with three airlines.

The 6-foot-9, 228-pounder believes he’s made inroads with NBA front offices, but most draft gurus don’t anticipate Williams among the 60 picks.

Williams is listed 98th in nbascoutinglive.com’s Top 100 and 26th among a deep crop of forwards and centers. He was honorable mention on nbadraft.net’s list of top power forwards.

“The things I did at Gonzaga showed through,” Williams said. “I’m an energy guy, finish around the basket, can switch on ball screens and use my feet on the perimeter. I’m showing more leadership skills and being active in all my workouts.

“When I think about it, when I make the NBA, I’m not going to be the first option. It’s other ways to make an impact – defense, rebounding, making a corner 3.”

The latter, Williams’ perimeter shooting and free-throw accuracy, are probably the biggest holes in his résumé, but his athleticism and versatility translate to the pro game.

Gonzaga has had three lottery picks in the last five drafts – Zach Collins, Domantas Sabonis and Kelly Olynyk – but other Zags have made the NBA via alternative paths. David Stockton, who finished last season with Utah, played four seasons in the NBA G-League. Kyle Wiltjer was undrafted but made Houston’s roster in 2016.

Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams pressures UNC Greensboro guard Francis Alonso on March 15 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams pressures UNC Greensboro guard Francis Alonso on March 15 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Williams discussed the draft process with Wiltjer and Nigel Williams-Goss, who was taken by Utah in the second round last year before playing his first pro season in Serbia. They gave Williams pointers on selecting an agent and excelling in workouts.

Williams, a two-time All-West Coast Conference first-teamer and AP All-America honorable mention, is back in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, for the first time since December. When he wasn’t traveling for workouts, he was busy training in Cleveland.

Williams hasn’t decided if he’ll watch the draft on television. He knows he doesn’t appear in mock drafts, but he’s confident he’ll end up in the same place as many of those who will hear their names called Thursday.

“That (belief) goes back a long time,” he said. “With my work ethic, anything is possible.

“I’m going to outwork anybody in front of me. I’ve been doing that my whole life.”

Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams walks past a mural of LA Lakers great Kobe Bryant before practice, Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams walks past a mural of LA Lakers great Kobe Bryant before practice, Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)


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