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Amari Williams Never Wavered on Commitment to Kentucky: 'I Wasn't Close to Going Anywhere'

Jacob Polacheckby:Jacob Polacheck06/12/24


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Amari Williams has an exciting week ahead of him. The Kentucky transfer forward will graduate from Drexel on Friday and move in at Kentucky on Saturday.

Williams sat down with KSR+ ahead of his move-in for a one-on-one interview to discuss his commitment to Kentucky, expectations for the 2024-25 season, and much more. He’s ready to come in and work.

“We have a great group, a great set of guys,” Williams said. “A lot of us know that we’re underrated right now. Knowing that’s in the back of our minds throughout practice, throughout the year, is going to be good.”

It hasn’t exactly been a straightforward path for Williams to get to Kentucky. The 6-foot-10 transfer forward from Drexel announced his commitment to Kentucky on April 21 shortly after his official visit. However, there were still concerns that Williams could end up going elsewhere even after his commitment.

Williams had a late-night meeting with Kentucky head coach Mark Pope on May 1, which reaffirmed his commitment. However, Williams said the plan was always to stay loyal to UK.

“I was not close at all to going anywhere, I wasn’t close to going anywhere. I knew where it was,” Williams said. “My coaches knew I was going to stay. It was just a matter of speaking to him and seeing where things were at. Even if he didn’t fly out to see me, that wouldn’t have changed my decision. I was already set on going to UK.”

‘An Offense of Passing Bigs’

If you ask Amari Williams, he and Mark Pope are the perfect pairing at Kentucky. He was one of the first coaches to reach out once Williams hit the transfer portal and the two hit it off immediately.

“A lot of people have talked about the offense Mark Pope runs,” Williams said. “It’s an offense of passing bigs. That fits my play style the best.”

Williams grew up in London but has been following Kentucky for quite some time. UK even played a game against Michigan in London in 2022.

“Kentucky is known everywhere,” he said. “When Coach [John] Calipari left, to be honest, I didn’t think anything of it. It had nothing to do with my recruitment, so I just brushed it off. It wasn’t big news for me or anything; it was just another announcement, I guess.”

Williams took his official visit to Kentucky on April 20, the first official visit of Pope’s tenure. During that trip, he got to see the Keeneland race track.

“It was definitely good to go out there and see Keeneland and everything like that,” Williams said. “That [visit] definitely had a factor. It was just about seeing the school and seeing the plan he had for me which influenced me to make the decision so quickly. At that point, it was between Kentucky and Mississippi State.”

Williams let Pope know he was committing at the airport right before leaving Lexington. Pope’s influence on his decision was clear.

“He was with me everywhere on my visit,” Williams said. “He showed how it worked for him at BYU and how he could see me doing similar things. That was one of the deciding factors.”

Thoughts on Kentucky’s 2024-25 Roster

When Amari Williams committed to Kentucky, he joined a roster consisting of two incoming freshmen, Travis Perry and Collin Chandler. Williams was the first transfer commitment for Kentucky in the Mark Pope era.

“Like everyone says, it’s Kentucky. It’s the best of college basketball,” Williams said. “I didn’t really have any worries about not having a team or something like that. I knew that was going to come around, especially because of how the transfer portal is. There are a lot of players to choose from.”

Nearly two months later, Kentucky has a roster of 12 players, ready to pursue championship number nine. With Williams being the only player not yet moved in, he’s ready to get to Lexington.

“We have a great team that’s going to make a lot of noise,” he said. “Just seeing the team now, I’m really excited to get to campus.”

Williams likes the way Pope has constructed this season’s roster. Surrounding him with shooters is certainly appealing.

“We’ve got a lot of shooters, as everyone says,” Williams said. “It’s a lot of different playing styles and I feel like we mesh well together. It’s going to be fun to see how it all comes along.”

Williams is familiar with the games of some of his new teammates. Namely, Kerr Kriisa and Andrew Carr.

“I played against Kerr Kriisa in a European tournament when I was 17. He played for Žalgiris and I played against him a little bit,” he said. “The one I know the most is Andrew Carr because he used to play for Delaware before he went to Wake Forest. Delaware is Drexel’s rival. In both of our sophomore years, we played against each other three times.”

Williams and Carr are both 6-foot-10 but play different styles of basketball. That will allow them to share time on the court together.

“It’s going to be fun,” Williams said. “He’s a great shooter. You can find him anywhere on the floor — the dunker’s spot or for three. Just having someone like him, especially at his height, playing alongside me will be fun.”

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‘The Main Goal is Just to Win’

Of course, Amari Williams wants to make it to the NBA. He wants to become a pro, but that’s not his main goal. First and foremost, he wants to win games.

“The main goal is to just win. If you just focus on winning, everything else comes along with it,” Williams said. “Whether you want to go pro or anything, as long as you win and keep that the main goal, everything else will fall into place.”

Williams isn’t too concerned with playing time either. He was actually intrigued by Pope not promising anyone minutes.

“That’s another thing that was attractive to Coach Pope as a recruiter,” he said. “It’s just a matter of coming in, working, and showing that you deserve to be out on that floor. That’s really what it is.”

Williams will have a shot to play significant minutes if he shows off the skills that made him such an attractive option in the transfer portal. That mainly revolves around his passing and defending.

“I feel like I defend best on the court. That’s the best part of my game, just defending, passing, finding the open cutter, and the open man on the three,” he said. “Those are the two parts of my game that stand out.”

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