Fifteen-year-old phenom Shawn Marion Williams is determined to reach the same heights as NBA star Rui Hachimura.
Williams was among the players who turned heads during the 2020-21 B. League U-15 Championship, which wrapped up on Tuesday at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
The 196-cm forward led Earthfriends Tokyo Z to to a third-place finish in his last tournament with the team. Williams will enroll at basketball powerhouse Sendai University Meisei High School, Hachimura’s alma mater, later this month.
“The goal I want to achieve in the near future is winning the Winter Cup (the high school national championship),” Williams said after Earthfriends’ 90-61 win over the Ryukyu Golden Kings in the third-place contest on Tuesday.
Meisei won three straight Winter Cup titles from 2013 with Hachimura, currently in his second season with the Washington Wizards, on the roster. The school won its sixth overall title in December.
Williams, named to the all-tournament team at the U-15 event, wants to help the school put together a four-peat by winning the title in each of next three seasons.
“After that, I want to go to an NCAA Division I school, do well there and go to the NBA,” said Williams, whose idol is late Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant.
Williams began playing basketball in sixth grade, a little later than most. He was quickly identified as a major talent and he then made up his mind to attend Meisei.
“When I was a sixth grader, coach Hisao (Sato of Meisei) came to Adachi-ku, where I grew up, and held a basketball clinic,” recalled Williams, who attended junior high in the Tokyo ward. “The next day, coach Hisao told me ‘You should come to Meisei if you want to be an NBA player.’”
Williams said Ibu Yamazaki, the star forward who led Meisei to the 2020 Winter Cup championship, also asked him to join the team so they could “become champions together” during a telephone conversation.
Williams, like Hachimura, is biracial, born to a Japanese mother and Ghanian father in Kushiro, Hokkaido. Noting there are many multiracial children who experience bullying in Japan, he’s set his sights on reaching the highest level of basketball to serve as an inspiration for them.
“I want to be a presence that gives hope to those kids,” said Williams, who was part of a brass band before he started basketball.
Because of their similar ethnic background and body size, Williams is sometimes compared to Hachimura. It’s still too early, however, to say what the future holds.
At this point, though, Williams appears to have a greater skill set than Hachimura did at the same age, in part because the Earthfriends coaching staff, lead by head coach Teiken Iwai, has molded him into a more all-around player.
While still very raw, Williams’ versatility — including his 3-point shooting, dribbling and passing — was on display during the U-15 tournament.
“Obviously his potential is extremely high and I think the sky is the limit for him going forward,” Iwai said of Williams, who began the third-place game with consecutive 3-pointers and scored 12 points. “We didn’t really treat him any differently than our other players. He just worked very hard with the rest of the team.”
Williams seems to have a high ceiling and intends to work as hard as he can in hopes of achieving his dream of playing at the highest level.
“Yeah, he’s someone who I’ve just admired,” Williams said when asked if Hachimura was a major reason why he goes to Meisei. “But I hope to be a player that can even overtake him.”
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