Back in November, before the high school basketball season started, recruiting analyst Rick Lewis thought West Charlotte’s Patrick Williams was on the verge of becoming the best player in the state.
Lewis’ company, the Phenom Hoop Report, ranked Williams No. 2 in the North Carolina class of 2019 behind Wendell Moore of Concord Cox Mill. Moore, a McDonald’s All-American, is a top-25 national recruit who has signed with Duke.
But after watching Williams lead his team to its first state championship appearance in seven years, Lewis said he believes the West Charlotte star and Florida State recruit has reached the top spot.
“We’ve had Wendell at No. 1 and I’ve always said, long-term, Patrick will be a better prospect,” Lewis said. “With what he’s done, carrying his team to a state championship, that probably pushes him over the edge.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Lewis said what makes Williams special is his versatility. He’s 6-foot-8, 215 pounds and can play all five positions, from guard to center. Williams played guard growing up. When he arrived at West Charlotte as a freshman, he was 6-foot tall.
By his sophomore year, Williams was 6-4. Last summer, he reached 6-8. Those guard skills, though, never left him. As he got used to his new length, Williams shot up more than 40 spots on most national recruiting rankings last summer, landing in the top 40 of most.
Lewis thinks that’s still too low.
“He’s a top-20 kid,” Lewis said, “without a doubt. There’s not many guys in the country with the versatility he has. I just don’t know of many players in the country who can play on both ends of the court the way he does.”
The thing that’s beginning to raise Williams’ profile now is he’s beginning to play harder.
As a junior, he averaged 21 points and seven rebounds. This season, he’s averaging 22.1 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals. But it’s not just the numbers, which are subtly better.
It’s the way he’ s playing.
“I felt like it was a switch that had to be turned on,” Williams said. “Everybody was saying I had to be more aggressive, I had to be more assertive. I’m not sure where it came from, but I just feel like I’m aggressive now. And I can still do better.”
Saturday, Williams will play his final game with West Charlotte. The Lions (25-6) will be an underdog in the N.C. 4A final against Winterville’s South Central High (29-1), which is ranked No. 6 nationally.
Williams is confident his team can win its first N.C. High School Athletic Association state championship since 2011 and its sixth overall.
“I know it’s going to happen now,” he said. “I can smell it. I can smell the (state championship) ring. It makes me want it even more.”
Williams said he and the Lions are not concerning themselves with who the favorite is or who is nationally ranked. This is one game, he said, 32 minutes for everything.
“At this point,” he said, “everybody’s even. Everybody can lose, anybody can win.”
And Williams knows that to reach his ultimate goal, at least his ultimate goal in high school, he’s got to lead the Lions to a title.
“Everybody from alumni, to teachers, to supporters have been telling us that West Charlotte basketball is getting back to where it used to be,” he said. “That was a goal of mine when I first came here as a ninth-grader. There were tough times, tough years, when we lost early (in the playoffs), but I always knew, next year, I could come back and do better.
“Ten years from now, I want to be able to look back and say ‘Patrick was the best to come through West Charlotte,’ and I know in order to be the best, you’ve got to win a state championship. You can not win a state championship and try to be the best.”