In the 2002 draft, there was a quick little point guard who could shoot the lights out of the ball. He was thought to be a safe pick. Of course, when drafting college kids there is really no such thing. So the Chicago Bulls, as they drafted Jay Williams with the #2 overall pick, found this out real quick in the years to come.
Jay Williams was widely considered the best player in college basketball in the early 2000s. He averaged 19.3 points and 6.0 assists per game during his three-year career and led the Blue Devils to a NCAA championship in 2001. Jay was an ideal point guard in Coach Krzyzewski’s system. His ability to make his teammates better while being the leading scorer on the team made him standout compared to every other point guard in the NCAA.
Everyone will always remember “The Miracle Minute” against Maryland, where he dragged the Blue Devils back from down 10 with one minute left.
Williams was at the head of a team that included Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer, Chris Duhon, and Shane Battier. Quite an impressive roster, considering all of these players have had standout NBA careers. But after the 2002 season was over, all eyes were on Williams as he entered the NBA draft.
Since Michael Jordan left Chicago in 1998, the Bulls had gone 13-37, 17-65, 15-67 and 21-61. The Chicago Bulls drafted him as the No. 2 overall pick (Yao Ming being the only player taken in front of him). Everyone had the same feelings surrounding Williams that he was going to be Michael Jordan’s replacement. Quite the giant shoes to fill to begin with. But Williams did show flashes of the same brilliance that Jordan had shown his rookie year. He averaged just 9.5 points, but periodically would put up 20+ points and 5+ assists.
One of his biggest problems was turning the ball over as the adjustment to the speed of the NBA game took time. But this is definitely something that could be solved with a little coaching and experience in the league.
Unfortunately, before any real NBA success could occur the Jay Williams era ended by one awful motorcycle accident.
The accident caused such severe injury that it would sideline Williams for the rest of his career. He promised Bulls fans that he would return, but because of the violation of a stipulation in his contract, that he would not ride motorcycles, he was released by the Bulls and any hope of a comeback was thought to be fictitious. He attempted to resurrect his career on two separate occasions, one with the New Jersey Nets in 2006 and the Miami Heat in 2010, but he was cut both times.
Williams has since served as a NCAA tournament analyst for CBS sports network and now covers college basketball for ESPN. His basketball career has been essentially concluded since the unfortunate accident and he will forever remain in the minds of Duke and Bulls fans as a question mark to what he could have been.
Next: Grant Hill