Nigel Williams-Goss thinks everything through, on and off the basketball court.
The junior guard filled up the stat sheet, earned numerous awards and helped Gonzaga to the best season in program history. There wasn’t much left to accomplish in college basketball.
Williams-Goss announced Tuesday he will declare for the NBA Draft. He’ll be represented by Greg Lawrence of Wasserman, eliminating the possibility of returning for his senior season. Lawrence also represents ex-Zags’ Kelly Olynyk and Domantas Sabonis.
“I just felt like in my heart of hearts it was the right decision,” Williams-Goss said. “I feel like I came here to improve as a player. Looking at all my stats across the board I did that. I came here to get my degree and I did that. I came here to help Gonzaga make history and I think we did that by making the Final Four and the championship game.
“I feel like mentally and physically I’ve done pretty much all I could do at this level.”
His decision wasn’t considered a surprise, even though he’s listed as a second-round selection in some mock drafts and a free agent in others. He earned numerous All-American honors and was a finalist for the Wooden Award. He is the third Zag, joining Olynyk and Dan Dickau, and just the sixth player overall in the last 20 years to be a first-team All-American and an Academic All-American.
Williams-Goss is a young man at 22, but the NBA doesn’t view his birth certificate quite the same way. Freshmen annually dominate the draft’s first round. Eleven of the first 12 picks in ESPN.com’s 2017 mock draft are freshmen – including Gonzaga’s Zach Collins – and the 12th is an 18-year-old from France.
If Williams-Goss had returned to GU for his senior season, he would be 24 at the outset of the 2018-19 NBA season. Returning for his senior season probably wouldn’t have impacted scouts’ opinions of his game.
“I wanted to be all in one way or the other,” Williams-Goss said of the possibility of testing the NBA waters without hiring an agent. “Either I was going to come back to school or go for it. I’m 100 percent confident mentally and physically. With my age, I’ve been able to mature a lot in four years and improve year after year.”
Williams-Goss led Gonzaga in scoring (16.8), assists (4.7) and steals (1.7). He was second in rebounding (6.0). He paced the Zags in scoring in four of six NCAA Tournament games.
“The thing that is so appealing about him is his smarts. He’s definitely shown an ability to make teammates better,” an NBA scout said. “He’s just a well-rounded player. He’s going to rebound, pass, play some defense.
“His athleticism, or lack thereof, and his shooting are kind of a concern. He has good size at 6-3. As a backup point guard, you have to either be athletic or shoot the ball. He has to be able to do one or the other.”
Williams-Goss’ exit leaves the Zags with just two experienced backcourt players. Rising junior Josh Perkins is a two-year starter and senior-to-be Silas Melson has been a solid contributor for the last two seasons. Zach Norvell Jr., a 6-5 wing, redshirted last season.
The incoming recruiting class includes guard Jesse Wade, who recently returned from a two-year LDS mormon mission. Joel Ayiya, a 6-4 guard from France, recently visited Gonzaga and New Mexico transfer Elijah Brown lists the Zags among five potential landing spots.
“Honestly, there’s no way coach (Mark) Few isn’t going to put a top-level product on the floor,” Williams-Goss said. “They’re going to have a lot of young talent on the floor.”
“I have a big grin on my face every time I think about the year and how special it was,” he said. “The way we came together as a group, the behind the scenes stuff that nobody sees, and obviously the amount of people we were able to move and inspire. We had a lot of people join the bandwagon.”