Tennessee Fans Have Plenty of Reasons To Thank Grant Williams

Credit: UT Athletics

By Josh Ward | @Josh_Ward

Grant Williams is ready to see what more he can do in his basketball career.

Williams announced on Friday that he will forgo his senior season at Tennessee and remain in the NBA Draft.

Williams’ college career ends with an incredible list of accomplishments. That list includes:

* Two-time SEC Player of the Year
* Two-time first-team All-SEC
* Consensus first-team All-America
* Helped lead Tennessee to an SEC regular season championship
* John R. Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy finalist
* 2018 SEC Community Service Team member
* Graduated in three years

We’ll find out on June 20 where Williams stands as an NBA prospect, but that won’t tell the entire story. Whether Williams ends up being selected in the first or second round of the draft, he knows he has plenty to prove at the next level.

That’s how it was when Williams enrolled at Tennessee three years ago. Consider what Williams told Grant Ramey in May 2016 before he arrived in Knoxville.

“We’re not coming in just to be that foundation, we’re coming to start something and create something that’s going to last forever. We don’t want to just come in and be the start of it, the start of something new. We want to be that huge burst that comes to Tennessee. I think we’re national championship contenders in a few years.”

Williams delivered exactly what he promised, helping the Vols share the SEC regular season title with Auburn in 2018 and putting Tennessee in national championship contention this past season, which included a four-week run at No. 1 in the polls.

Tennessee will sorely miss Williams. Along with his intelligence and leadership on the floor, he was an elite playmaker whose skill-set was used to help run Tennessee’s offense. At crunch time, the ball was often supposed to go to Williams; opponents knew it and still struggled to stop him.

Williams isn’t the only key player Tennessee will have to replace. Seniors Kyle Alexander and Admiral Schofield are gone, and coach Rick Barnes told WNML last week that guard Jordan Bone is expected to stay in the draft.

Tennessee still has senior guards Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner to help with the transition, and freshman Josiah James should make an immediate impact. Barnes’ long track record of success will provide confidence in the Vols’ ability to win at a high level moving forward.

Tennessee’s recruiting profile has also improved thanks to the program’s elevated level of play the last two seasons. Along with the signing of James, the Vols have received a commitment from highly-touted forward Corey Walker Jr. in the 2020 class, and other top prospects, including guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer, are strongly considering Tennessee.

Williams wanted to do more than just lay a foundation at Tennessee, and he did. Still, Williams should be satisfied knowing he leaves UT’s program in a better place than when he arrived.

Williams’ impact on Tennessee goes beyond the basketball floor. He was active in the community and made a genuine connection with fans.

Tennessee’s ability to win games played the biggest role in fans’ increased interest in Vols basketball, but the personality of Williams and his teammates is a big reason why fans will remember the last two years so fondly.

Williams posted a message on Instagram to everyone associated with Tennessee during the weekend, thanking them for the experience he had in Knoxville the last three years.

“I am a Vol for Life and I pray I’ll never be forgotten,” Williams wrote in his Instagram post.

Don’t’ worry, Grant. You won’t be.