Believe it or not, there is more beyond just the NCAA and NBA basketball leagues. There are many professional leagues outside the US which go heavily unnoticed. You may have heard of the usual Euro players like Luka Doncic, and Kristaps Porzingis, but there are so many other players out there who are just one good break away from the NBA. One thing NBA fans don’t realize is that Euro players are just as good as NBA players. Some players who have played in both Euro Leagues and the NBA have even said it’s harder to score in Europe. There’s no question that Euro players are underappreciated, so we took advantage of this, and were able to interview Euro Player Jonathan (Jon-Jon) Williams. Williams currently plays for Crelan Okapi Aalstar, a professional team in Belgium.
Williams was born in Southfield, Michigan in February of 1995. Throughout his entire childhood he had been playing basketball, growing up in a sports oriented family. At age 9 he began to play basketball at an organized level. Flash-forward to High School, where Williams attended Southfield-Lathrup High School. Williams excelled greatly in high school, where he was a letter-winner all 4 of his seasons with the school. Williams graduated in 2013 as the schools all-time leading scorer (1785 points!). He also was ranked No. 15 best player in Michigan by ESPN. Throughout his High School career he was awarded All State Player, Detroit News First-Team and many more impressive all-team awards.
Jon-Jon Williams is extremely passionate for the game of basketball. When we asked him what his Plan B was in case basketball didn’t work out, he told us
“My plan B was to make my plan A work out, basketball has been my dream since I was a kid, and I was always determined to make something of that”.
Williams was certainly well on his way after high school, receiving college basketball interest from the University of Toledo.
Williams first step to accomplishing “Plan A” was attending the University of Toledo to further pursue his basketball passion and also working towards his communications degree. In his freshman year, Williams averaged almost 7 points through his 34 games (2 starts). He lead Toledo Rockets in scoring off the bench that season. The next season, Williams was given a starting role and started all 33 contest the Rockets played. Williams saw an increase in his points and stats alike. In his junior year, Williams lifted off, averaging almost 18 points per game, and scoring above 20 points in 13 of his games. Finally Williams entered his senior year with Toledo, where he very nearly broke 20 points per game, and solidified himself as a Toledo Rockets great.
Now it was time for Williams’ offseason. We asked Williams how many hours a day he dedicates to basketball, and what his offseason grind looks like. He told us “In my offseason I usually make sure I’m getting shots up, working on situations from the game, lifting weights, running miles or doing pickup games around the city.
Jonathan said he puts in over 5 hours a day towards perfecting his craft, but he is “getting shots up (during the season) more than anything just to stay in rhythm”.
After his last year in Toledo, Williams declared for the 2017 NBA draft, unfortunately he went undrafted, but this did not stop Williams. He went on to pursue an overseas career in Poland, where he played for his first professional team, GTK Gilwice. He was extremely effective, being the second leading scorer on his team despite only playing around 24 minutes per game.
In our exclusive interview with Jonathan Williams, we asked him about some of the differences he noticed between college basketball at Toledo, and Pro Basketball in Poland. Williams told us it’s “a totally different game” and went on to say that there was a “speed difference, physical difference, IQ difference, athletic difference and better players in general”.
This year, Williams was given his second professional opportunity in the Belgian Professional Basketball League. Today he plays for Crelan Okapi Aalstar. Williams was a late roster addition and has proven to be very effective once again for the team, being the a top 5 scorer on his team, despite being the only player on his team to average double digits in scoring in less than 24 minutes per game.
We asked Williams to reflect on what motivated him to get to this point in his career, he told us “the passion I have for the game (motivated me), I always had a dream of playing in the NBA or somewhere professional, and my family always supported me and pushed me to reach my goals.” Williams passion certainly got him to the point he is at right now, but it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows. Williams has received some doubt through his career, although he believes he received a lot of support. When we asked Williams how he overcame any doubts he responded “Any doubt that I received growing up and even to this day just makes me want to put in more work. Not just to prove them wrong, but to prove myself right”.
Our final question to close our interview with Jonathan Williams asked if he had any advice to anyone who had a dream, but were to scared to pursue it out of fear of failure. Williams answer directly reflected the passion and commitment that he displays on and off the court day in and day out. He said:
“One of the greatest players (Michael Jordan) to ever play the game said he failed over and over again and that’s why he succeeded.” he then said furthermore “I think experiences teach you the best lessons, so you can’t let fear get in the way of making a mistake, but just to learn from it next time”.
We were beyond blessed to be able to score an interview with Jonathan Williams. We’d like to truly thank Williams for his time. Make sure you follow him on Instagram his handle is ” @only1jonjon “.