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Junior year Highlight Tape: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH8QnGYapbw&t=184s

 

*Photo taken by ‘Kwame Olds Photography’

 

Now near the closing days of August, summer of 2019 has pretty much come to a close and classes are back in session for most high school students around the state of Virginia. This also means it’s getting closer to the time for our Phenom Hoops team to embark on yet another preseason ‘open gym tour’ for our respective regions of coverage. I had a good time touring around last fall in my first year of scouting and look forward to see what local teams have in store for this winter that’s soon to arrive. Personally, at the beginning of each new season, I always seek to find programs who return a good group of veterans to the system. As they say, “nothing beats experience” and teams tend to always hold greater chances of success when they have familiar faces back in the mix.

This year, in 2019-20, I already have plans in making sure to keep an eye on St. Christopher’s School (Richmond, VA); one of the area’s few private schools and a competitor within the Virginia Prep League (VPL). Only Arnold Henderson ’19, a current walk-on freshmen for the men’s basketball team at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Will Hayes ’19 departed from last year’s group, as at least eight seniors and four sophomores should hold roster spots again. Amongst that senior core is Gill Williamson ’20, who started many games last year and knows what must happen for the Saints to take a step forward from their 2018-19 overall record.

Most may not know there’s a different type of requirement for athletics over on the school grounds of St. Christopher’s. All students must compete in at least two competitive sports up to their senior year; when they then have the choice to partake in only one sport, if desired. Members of the Richmond basketball community likely have indeed noticed the 6’8” Williamson’s standout play on the court but may be interested to find out he additionally spends time as a member of both the Saints’ varsity football and lacrosse squads.

“It (the sports rule) all comes pretty naturally honestly,” Williamson explained. “I don’t think many of the students have a problem handling time as student-athletes. For me, I start at quarterback for football and play as attacker/midfielder in lacrosse. Football’s going pretty well for us right now. We lost a lot of seniors but the majority of our offensive line is back.”

That’s always good news for a quarterback when he learns his offensive linemen will return for more protection. Williamson excels on the gridiron as a natural athlete but acknowledged that it slowed him down a bit last winter when transitioning straight into high school hoops. It’s relatable, since there’s an inevitable difference between ‘football-shape’ and ‘basketball-shape.’

“Yeah, at the beginning of basketball season it was pretty hard for me adjust, coming right from football. I just had to switch my focus to basketball for full-time and change my mentality. Spending as much time on the court as possible helped me out the most in those early weeks.”

Once he started to gain his comfort and on-court feel back, Williamson began to cause more attention as each game passed by. He’s one of those guys who seemed to get better each time I saw St. Christopher’s play (about 5-6 times total in 2018-19). The team enjoyed some good wins and suffered other tough losses but indeed displayed moments of promise. Personally, I felt a prime example occurred months ago on February 22nd when they played Trinity Episcopal School (Richmond, VA) tightly in the VPL tournament semifinals.

“I think we struggled with team chemistry; more in the beginning towards the middle parts of last season. Near the end, we started to bring it together. I’m excited for this year because we didn’t lose much and should have a strong foundation moving forward.”

Moving past his junior outing into these recent months of travel ball, Williamson continued that same trend of looking more improved each time I had the chance to scout him in tournaments, playing for Court Authority 17u. He’s always held toughness inside the paint but clearly sharpened up his perimeter skills quite a bit over the last four months or so. At his height, this allows to work as a bigger inside-and-out threat by scoring over smaller opponents near the rim, while also taking bigger (and likely slower) guys out to the wing. He’s become more athletic, extended his shooting range, and bettered his footwork.

“It was definitely a goal of mine to show more of what I could do on the perimeter for AAU. I wanted to work on my dribbling and shooting, especially. I felt like I was lacking mainly in those two areas prior to the summer.”

The hard work absolutely has paid dividends and I felt Williamson, along with his St. Christopher’s teammates, looked at their best as a whole in both weekend sessions of the inaugural ‘Virginia Live Period Shootout’; a two-part showcase hosted by Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA) back in late-June. One of 18 teams participating, the Saints showed out by playing selfless and making quick execution that proved effective. It was easy to note a new type of ‘pep in their step.’ Williamson’s reliable play on a Saturday (6/29) during Session II led to me selecting him as one of my daily event standouts. I can recall making some specific statements about the rising senior:

“It’s honestly been difficult to note a particular standout from the St. Christopher’s Saints due to how well they’ve approached collective team play. Still, during Saturday’s first morning game on Court 2, Williamson went to work to show those in attendance that he’s still not done making strides. The 6’8” forward shot the ball nicely from three-point range; ending with at least 3-4 made attempts. His grit around the basket has always, and continues to, impress me the most, honestly. He has that way of leading by example, which can really get his team motivated if they ever go through a stretch of playing lackadaisical. I also feel Williamson keeps getting more athletic to finish above the rim; he soared for a pair of dunks in that same morning contest. A very nice performance from the upperclassman, whom folks definitely need to keep in mind within the Virginia Prep League next school season.”  – (6/29)

Coming off of that particular showcase, Williamson noted there’s reasons for optimism about the team’s improvement but they can’t afford to become complacent now. November’s still a ways to go and the squad will have to keep working until then to find consistency in those capabilities they showed at Blue Ridge.

“It was fun up there (at Blue Ridge) playing against good competition. Every game was interesting, no matter who we faced. I thought we moved the ball a lot better during games; that’ll be a big key for our offense. I also feel like everyone WANTS to be out there for each other and win. That’s a different type of mindset I’m seeing…a good change that’s happened this summer. We went through a span last year where the focus slacked off. The coaches said they’ll be looking for Walker Wallace ’20 and myself to show great leadership as the senior captains. They want the other guys to hear instructions from us two and not just the coaching staff all of the time.”

Wallace, a 6’6” Cornell University men’s lacrosse commit, is another one who’s seemed to take a step up in his basketball game, based off of what I saw at the ‘Live Period Shootout.’ He has good strength and underrated athleticism to become an offensive rebounding machine often. When he and Williamson play at their best, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them become of the VPL’s top front court duos.

“Walker and I have been playing for a long time now, in all sports, honestly (basketball, football, and lacrosse). So, I think we know where each other likes to be on the court. That way, it makes it easier for us to share the ball.”

Even as a multi-sport athlete, Williamson knows his main goal revolves around chasing that orange ball for a possible career after high school concludes. He’s still fairly under the radar on the recruitment scene but programs have taken noticed over the past months how well he competes and brings a mixture of intangibles to the hardwood.

“Things are a little slow right now but I’ve heard from a range of different (NCAA) levels. Preferably, I feel like I’d want more of a smaller school, nothing too huge. I’m thinking about studying business/finance. Basketball-wise, it’d be cool to arrive somewhere I could play right away but, of course, I would understand having to wait my turn too.”

Staying busy both on and off the field, as the fall school semester will officially begin for St. Christopher’s next week, Williamson’s taking the right steps to put himself in a position to prepare for the heavy schedules that all student-athletes must go through at the collegiate level. On the court, I’m expecting even bigger things from him…this could become a bigger breakout year to make his name known in both the VPL and Richmond, in general. Audiences should watch out for him and the Saints this season; I strongly believe they’re returning to the league with a goal of taking some names.

Hang on, hang on: where does Gill Williamson see himself in ten years?

“The NBA is definitely a goal but, if not, I’ll just have to see what other opportunities come my way as a full-time worker.”

Keep it going, Gill. Might have to go watch him lead the attack in a football game soon!