VALPARAISO | If YouTube hits equaled scholarship offers, Lexus Williams would’ve been one of the top recruits in the country this season.
Williams gained a measure of fame during his junior season when his game-winning 3-pointer led Marist past Curie in the IHSA 4A regional championship. The buzzer-beater wasn’t anything spectacular like those from Bryce Drew or Ryan Broekhoff, but the announcer losing his mind took the highlight to another level and the clip spread all over the Internet.
While Williams may have seen his social media profile expand, his recruiting stock never evolved beyond one Division I offer: Valparaiso. Williams gave his verbal commitment two months after the game-winning heroics.
“I felt that Valparaiso was the best situation for me,” Williams said. “It was my only offer, but I didn’t want to wait and potentially pass up on a chance that I had. It’s been a great fit so far.”
Whether Williams would’ve eventually gained additional D1 offers had he not committed to the Crusaders will never be known, but the fact remains that Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew was the only one who thought enough of the Chicago native to offer a full-ride scholarship.
“Lexus committed early to us in the recruiting process,” Drew said. “His high school coaches were sensational and we had several meetings with Lexus where we were able to get to know each other and we liked the fit. We liked that he came from a disciplined program.”
Despite experience playing against some of the best players in the country — Curie was led by Kansas-commit Cliff Alexander — Williams arrived on Valparaiso’s campus with the least amount of fanfare for any of the five freshmen.
The future stars were Alec Peters and Clay Yeo. The coaches salivated over the upside of Jubril Adekoya. Nick Davidson had the feel good story of the local star that stayed home.
Williams had a skinny body and a YouTube clip.
Then the games started.
Williams played 21 minutes in his collegiate debut against Murray State and was on the floor for key moments down the stretch. The Chicago native topped 20 minutes in each of the next three games and then had a breakout performance against Evansville. The freshman helped the Crusaders claw back into the game following a 27-point deficit and he did enough to earn a spot in the starting lineup against James Madison. Williams rewarded Drew’s vision with a career-high 12 points and four steals.
“I’m willing to do anything I can to help this team get wins,” Williams said. “I’m happy to be the spark off-the-bench, or if Coach (Drew) needs me to start, I’ll bring a spark to the start of the game. I’m comfortable with whatever.”
There have been plenty of freshmen who have entered Valparaiso with considerably higher expectations than Williams. There have been very few that have exceeded expectations as well as Williams. Now the next step is to continue to improve.
“We’re always looking for ways our players can get better,” Drew said. “I think it’s tough for Lexus because he’s a guard and with Coach (Matt) Lottich and myself being guards, I think we’re harder on them. Lexus is doing a great job of learning the game, getting in and watching film and bringing that onto the court.”