Emmitt Williams won’t officially ink his letter of intent with LSU until Wednesday, when the April signing period begins, but he’s chomping at the bit to get to Baton Rouge.
The thing the five-star forward is most looking forward to?
“The expectation is to get up there and work our behinds off,” Williams said on 104.5 ESPN’s Off the Bench Tuesday morning. “Everyone is expecting a lot, and we’re going to give them what they expect. We’re going to shine, I promise you that. But in order to shine, we gotta grind. That’s why I can’t wait to go to LSU. I know they’re going to kill us in this gym, but it’s all going to pay off at the end of the day.”
Williams is fresh off an MVP performance at the Jordan Brand Classic, where he scored 44 points on 22-of-23 shooting, breaking LeBron James’ 15-year-old scoring record in the contest. Neither of those honors were part of Williams’ plans heading to New York City.
“It was a blessing,” Williams said. “Actually, I didn’t even know I was going to break it until someone on the sidelines told me. I actually subbed myself out. I was like, ‘Man, I’m going to get this one more dunk and sub myself out. As soon as I subbed myself out, someone was like, ‘You need four more points to beat it.’ So I said, ‘Oh! I’m gonna go beat it. I’m going for it.’ My goal was just to be there. My goal wasn’t to win MVP or beat the record. It just happened. You never know what God’s got planned for you ahead in life.”
There, he lined up across from Javonte Smart, his future LSU teammate. Smart, a four-star guard from Baton Rouge, scored 15 points and buried 3-of-6 from 3. Williams didn’t like the feeling of playing against Smart.
“It felt weird,” he said.. “It was like, ‘We’re going to be teammates next year.’ To play on the other side of him, I don’t know to go against him, I don’t know to make him look good. I wasn’t prepared for that one.”
The recruiting process has been wild for Williams. He was hotly pursued by LSU, Florida, Oregon, and every other school in the country who coveted his 6-foot-8 frame and NBA-level athleticism and wingspan. But accusations of rape sidetracked his recruitment in the fall. When Orange County prosecutors dropped the charges, the door re-opened, and LSU entered back into the picture, picking up his commitment shortly thereafter.
“It’s been like a roller coaster. It’s been a lot of ups and downs, twists and turns, but it’s going to mean a lot to me to sign. It’s just the beginning. It’s not the end of something. It’s the beginning of a new journey, and I can’t wait.”
Williams will arrive in June for summer school. He says he plans to room with Tremont Waters, whom he texts daily. He’ll join Smart, fellow five-star Naz Reid, and four-star forward Darius Days to form the core of LSU’s 2018 signing class that ranks as high as No. 3 nationally, according to 247Sports. Asked jokingly if his decision to room with Waters would quell any rumors of the sophomore-to-be going pro, Williams responded with some wit of his own.
“Of course he’s gonna go pro,” he laughed. “All my guys are gonna go pro. We’re going to put in this work to show why we need to be pros. We’re going to put Baton Rouge on the map so much they’re going to have to make us go pro. I’ll be the first to say it: we’re going to work so hard, they’re going to make us have to go pro. It’s not going to come easy. We know there’s going to be ups and downs. But I believe in Jesus Christ, and God’s got a plan for us.”
Will Wade also has a plan for Williams and his classmates, as he looks to integrate them into a returning group of veterans that will include Waters, Skylar Mays, Daryl Edwards, Brandon Rachal, Oregon transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams, and Wayde Sims. Williams said what makes Wade and his staff stand out on the recruiting trail is their ability to connect away from the court.
“He’s not selling us,” Williams said. “He’s giving us hope and a dream. One thing I can say about Will Wade is he really has love for the basketball, and a love for the person, us as a person. A lot of coaches don’t do that. He really does have love for us on and off the court. That’s why I can’t wait.”
The Fort Myers, Fla. native from Oak Ridge – the same high school of former Tiger Antonio Blakeney – added that he’ll be the first person in his family to go to college, and he plans to put his city on the map.
He plans to do the same for Baton Rouge, too.
“Man, the fans don’t understand,” he said. “We’re going to bring LSU back on the map for basketball. I can’t wait to show it, I can’t wait to work. I know I’m going to hate the grind, but at the same time, it’s going to be a blessing.”