April 24, 2008

Two-sport star on verge of Ole Miss offer

Alex Williams will spend this weekend playing basketball in Cleveland, Ohio, in the King James Invitational.

His AAU team, the Orlando, Fla.-based Showtime Ballers, will depend on Williams' 8 points and 8 rebounds per game as it tries to claim a prestigious national award.

"Right now, he likes basketball more," Ballers coach Diana Neal said. "He's more of a (small forward). He can shoot and defend on the outside and the inside. He can take you off the dribble. He's very aggressive. He could sign with a high-major. It's just about being seen by the right people. He's very coachable. He's willing to learn and willing to work hard."

Neal might be right. Williams, a 6-foot-5, 215-pounder who scored 19 points and 13 rebounds per game for FAMU High School in Tallahassee, Fla., leading his team to the state semifinals, loves basketball and is interested in playing the sport at the next level. His high school coaches, however, think that mindset might be on the verge of changing later this spring when football practices commence and coaches from across the country assess his talent.

"I think he's a future NFL player," FAMU High assistant football coach Johnny Cofield said. "He's got the same kind of talent that his brother had. They're almost so similar it's scary."

"The kid doesn't quite know what he's doing but he's a phenomenal worker," agreed Cofield's boss, head coach Ira Reynolds. "He loves to be successful and he loves the accolades. He's got a real good upside to him. We could see him on Sunday. Once he figures out what he's doing and understands what he's trying to do, he can't help but get better. He's 17 and he's 6-foot-5. He's real quick. He's a tackle's nightmare and he doesn't know what he's doing yet.

"By the end of May, he's going to have 12 or 13 offers. He's going to pass the eye test and coaches are going to see what he's capable of."

The brother Cofield referred to is former Arkansas star Boo Williams, a 6-foot-4 wide receiver who terrorized Southeastern Conference cornerbacks in 1999 and 2000 for Houston Nutt's Razorbacks. Boo Williams is a free agent this spring after catching 22 touchdown passes last season for the Kansas City Brigade of the Arena Football League. He's had discussions with the Denver Broncos recently about signing after this weekend's NFL draft. He's also had plenty of discussions with his little brother, at times providing a bit of a sales pitch on behalf of his former coach and several members of the Rebels' new staff.

"We're real close," Alex Williams said. "I talk to him almost every day. He said the Ole Miss staff is real cool. He tells me I need to look into them."

Alex Williams is doing just that. After recording 70 tackles and 19 quarterback sacks last season in his first year back on the gridiron, Williams admits that his first love _ basketball _ might not be his future.

"I played football when I was little, but everybody played then," Alex Williams said. "I stopped playing before the ninth grade and decided to try it again last year. That was the first year I went back and played, and with me not knowing a whole lot about football or defensive end, I thought I did real well."

"He's just so naturally gifted," Boo Williams said. " His footwork has really caught up with his size."

Boo Williams talked to Nutt just two days ago. Like Reynolds, he believes Ole Miss is "real close" to offering his little brother a football scholarship. In a telephone conversation Wednesday afternoon, Williams tried to be diplomatic, but frequently, he steered off-message.

"It fired me up to hear that they might be about to offer him," Boo Williams said. "I would have loved to have sent him to Arkansas but I'm loyal to Coach Nutt. If he went to Arizona, I'd cheer for Arizona. He knows what kind of player he'd be getting because he knows he's a lot like me in terms of work ethic. I think if he does go to Ole Miss, I think it would be a great decision. I don't try to tell him where to go, but I do try to give him advice. You can't really tell a person where to go. I mainly just tell him to get out of town.

"Ole Miss would be a great fit for Alex. Like I've told him, Coach Nutt is a coach of many words and many talents. When he speaks, he gets the attention of his players. His players respect and love him. He's a cool-type coach. He's not going to yell at you and cuss you. He's not that way. Instead, he's going to tell you what to do and if you don't do it, you won't play. I hope he goes to Ole Miss."

Ole Miss' ties to Alex Williams don't stop with Boo. Ole Miss recruiting coordinator/cornerbacks coach Chris Vaughn grew up in Tallahassee, often frequenting a parks and recreation center that was staffed by Reynolds.

"It helps Ole Miss that Coach Vaughn is there," Reynolds said. "He's such a fine young man, and I'm so proud of him."

Of course, before Alex Williams can choose a school, he has to first choose a sport. Late Wednesday, he didn't sound like a guy whose mind was made up.

"Wherever I go has to have good academics," Alex Williams said. "My mom's not going to give the amen if the school has bad academics. I like warm weather. I'd go up north, but I like warm weather. And I really want to play both sports."

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