July 25, 2014

Illini commit competing at USA 17U camp

Fighting Illini commit D.J. Williams from Chicago Simeon is in Colorado Spring looking to earn on a spot on the 2014 USA Men's U17 World Championship Team.

It's the third go-around for Williams, who has participated in two previous USA Basketball training camps.

"I always have confidence in myself," Williams said. "If I stay aggressive and do what I've been doing, I think I can make the team."

Making a team change on the summer AAU circuit, Williams ran with Playground Elite last week at the Elite Youth Invitational in Augusta (Ga.). His team captured the 17U championship with a win over CP3.

"It was my first time playing with them, and I think I played great," Williams said. "I got along well with the guys, and I like their style of play. We ended up winning the whole thing. It was fun being around new guys."

A newbie on the squad, Williams came off the bench and played multiple roles.

"Coach had me playing wing, and in the post a little bit," Williams said. "I averaged about 15 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds. It was my first tournament, so I came off the bench."

Back in June, Simeon took a trip to the United Arab Emirates to participate in the MPAC elite international basketball tournament in Dubai.

Williams was named most valuable player at the event, scoring 32 points in the title game win over national power Huntington Prep.

"Coach Rob (Smith) always tells that if I stay aggressive I can be one of the top players in the country," Williams said. "So that's what I've been doing. On my team, we're not selfish. If someone gets going, we keep giving them the ball, and I was the one who got it going."

Williams, the No. 58 ranked player in the nation, committed to John Groce back in January. Since pledging to the Illini, Williams has taken it upon himself to try to recruit other top players to the program.

"Elijah Thomas is my number one target right now," Williams said. "I talk to him a lot and he's like a brother to me. Jawun Evans, his teammate, I'm working on him too. I saw them and got a chance to play against them in the EYBL."

If Williams makes the USA National Team, he will travel back to Dubai for the FIBA Under-17 World Championship August 8-16.

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