“We are all in on college.”
It has been considered a given that five-star combo basketball player and social media star Mikey Williams who ranks No. 12 overall in the class of 2023, will never play college basketball. Not so fast.
At the Pangos All-American Camp in Las Vegas, his father Mahlon Williams told 247Sports that college is actually Mikey’s preferred route.
Heading back to his hometown of San Diego and San Ysidro High for his senior season after playing the last two years in North Carolina, Williams is arguably the most well-known player in all of high school basketball. He has over 3.6 million followers on Instagram, a multimillion-dollar shoe deal with Puma and is cashing in on Name, Image, and Likeness in a way that very few teenage athletes can.
The fame at an early age is nice but being a celebrity hasn’t ever been the end goal and understanding what really motivates Williams and the support system that is in place around him is important when looking at the viability of him playing college basketball.
“I think for Mikey the goal has always been the same and that is to take it to the highest level that he personally can take it to,” his father told 247Sports. “Whether that’s being a great player in college then that’s where it’s at. Whether it’s being a great pro then that’s where it’s at. But he gives all of his heart to (basketball) and that’s what a lot of people don’t understand, his sacrifice and how hard he works.”
In many cases, an athlete’s ability, or inability, to handle scrutiny and attention plays a major role in just how successful they can become. Williams’ ability to manage a public persona that has allowed him to earn real money while continuing to perform at the level he does would be impressive for a grizzled veteran, much less a teenager.
“I’ve always said that Mikey is the perfect person for all of this because he’s very low key and relaxed,” said the elder Williams. “What you see on social media doesn’t really affect him. He understands that what you see on social media isn’t real. We also understand the social media world and the real world and as parents we don’t let the two worlds blend too much. So, he does what he needs to do as far as social media obligations but basketball wise, he understands “that’s my ticket and that’s what made all of this possible and so I’ve got to make sure that I maintain and do what I need to do.”
Williams family isn’t just talking the talk, they are walking the walk. Many times, it is easy to know who the parents of a high school star are. You may not know them, but you can’t miss them. Very few people would be able to pick out Williams’ parents in a crowd and it isn’t by coincidence.
“We are a humble family; most people don’t even know I’m his dad. I could walk into a gym, and nobody knows because that’s how I want it. This is his journey, and we try to stay humble, keep humble people around him and we make sure that his friends are humble kids. Kids are going to be kids regardless, but we just make sure he understands that God gave you a gift and we need to cultivate that and as parents and your support staff we need to make sure we are supporting it in the right way.”
Almost two years ago, Williams put out a top 10 of Alabama State, Arizona State, Hampton, Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina Central, San Diego state, Tennessee State, Texas Southern and USC. Go ahead and toss that list in a trash can for a variety of reasons.
“It was his top 10 when he put it out. You have had coaches change, Covid and so many things have happened since then. You have this transfer portal, right? Hey, he may want to go to this school, but the transfer portal may say we’ve got two guards better than you.”
Williams’ father continued.
“So, at the end of the day he’s still going to college, and we are still trying to figure out what does that top five or top ten look like now that you have a Puma deal, now that you have the transfer portal and all of these things are going to impact his decision to choose a school, so we are reshaping it.”
During February Williams stopped by USC for a visit and sources have indicated that Kansas is another program among those heavily involved. For now, though, Williams is keeping exactly which schools he’s most interested in under wraps.
“He still is huge on HBCU and he is going to make sure he takes a visit or two there. He has a couple of other schools that are high on his list as well. We are keeping it a little quiet, but it is going to be exciting when it is all laid out.”
A key component in all of this is going to be the contract that Williams is currently under with Puma. His family is hopeful that something will be able to be worked out if he wants to attend a school operating under a competing shoe brand contract, but it is certainly a very big bridge that will need to be crossed at some point.
Undoubtedly, there are going to be skeptics when it comes to Williams sincerity about playing college basketball. However, others close to him behind the scenes have been telling 247Sports for a few months now that his interest in college is legitimate and the words of his family back that up.
Maybe college won’t work out and if it doesn’t, there are a litany of professional options that will be available to Williams but for the time being, those are secondary considerations and the prospect of him playing college ball is a big deal.
“If we don’t take the college route then we’ve got still got the professional route. But he still wants to be a kid and he wants that college environment and I’m like this; I’m like you go to college, you do what you do and then you let the coaches dictate if or when that time comes that you are going to be highly sought-after pro. It may not be after year one, it could after year two. You don’t know long you are going to have to stay there but just trust the process when you get there.
“We are all in on college.”