Godfrey: Potential money lured Williams
The lure of potential money overseas was the reason that Latavious Williams opted to pursue a professional basketball career overseas instead of keep his commitment to Memphis, according to his consultant Trey Godfrey.
Williams, who played his postgraduate year at Christian Life Center Academy in Texas, becomes the third prep player in the past year to choose a pro career over playing in college. But like the other two, Williams wasn't qualified -- yet -- to play academically, according to a source with direct knowledge of his academic record.
"He's 6-8, long and athletic and as this process continued and there were questions whether he would qualify or not, there was conversations to see if he could do what Brandon Jennings did," Godfrey said.
Jennings, who signed to play at Arizona, didn't qualify before he decided to leave last summer and play a year in Italy. He was drafted No. 10 by the Milwaukee Bucks last month. Jeremy Tyler, who is from San Diego, quit school prior to the end of his junior year this past spring to pursue a two-year plan to play overseas before he would be eligible for the 2011 NBA draft.
American players can't declare for the NBA draft unless they've been out of high school for a year and are at least 19 years old in the draft's calendar year.
"The decision to play overseas was always an option for Latavious, even as he was looking at Memphis, Florida International and Georgetown," said Godfrey, who said he has known Williams for the past few years since he plays for Godfrey's close friend, Valerian Owens, on the Dallas-based AAU team Brandon Bass Elite.
Godfrey said Williams doesn't have a contract "on the table" from any professional team.
"But there is a lot of interest from Europe and the Far East," Godfrey said. "Because of the [financial] situation his family is in, he saw this as an opportunity to help them out a bit."
Godfrey said now that Williams has made a decision, he expects there to be a lot more interest from professional teams and said he hoped to have a contract from a team within the next few weeks.
Godfrey, who said he has a consulting company in Baton Rouge, La., has kept in contact with Williams throughout his decision process. Williams, a 6-8 forward from Starkville, Miss., was expected to be a major contributor for first-year Memphis coach Josh Pastner.
In light of the departures of Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart, Williams was expected to be one of the major contributors to the Memphis front line if he were eligible. The Tigers will now have to lean even more on 6-9 Miami Dade Junior College incoming forward Will Coleman to score in the post. The Tigers return redshirt Angel Garcia and seldom-used reserve forward Pierre Henderson-Niles. The perimeter could get an infusion of talent if Duke transfer Elliot Williams wins a waiver to play immediately next season after transferring back home to be with an ill family member. The Tigers also return guards Roburt Sallie, Willie Kemp, Wesley Witherspoon and Doneal Mack, all expected to be in the perimeter rotation.
Pastner said he was assuming Williams will follow through and go overseas. He said Williams' representative told him he was leaving, but that Williams has stopped taking his calls.
"If he has this opportunity, then it's hard to argue against it and I wish him nothing but the best," Pastner told ESPN.com Tuesday.
Godfrey said Sonny Vaccaro, who advised Jennings and Tyler, isn't involved in this case. Godfrey said he has had conversations with agents who represent clients in Europe.
"We have credible feelers out there," Godfrey said.
Jennings said during the draft last month that he had to be a top-five pick to feel like he would be a trailblazer for other prep players. He went No. 10.
But like Jennings last year, Williams hasn't been cleared to play next season so this could be a new option for ineligible players. There has yet to be a player who has chosen this option who has already been cleared to play by the NCAA's Eligibility Center.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.