MISSOULA — Jack Williams, a graduate transfer from Pacific, has committed to the Montana men's basketball team, he told the Missoulian on Monday afternoon.
Williams is a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward who will graduate in May, be eligible immediately and have one season of eligibility remaining. He was considering Clemson, Washington State, Boise State, Wyoming and Rice in addition to Montana, which he visited this past weekend.
“The interesting thing about Montana is all that four of the coaches flew out to see me,” Williams said over the phone. “We all sat down four or five days after I got my release, and we broke down film and talked over things. That all four of them flew out to see me was a big deal.
“For me, to go out how I want to go out my last year, Montana was the best fit. I want to win the Big Sky, make the NCAA tournament and make a run. With the talent on the team, I don’t see why that’s not possible. You see Loyola-Chicago, UMBC, and when you have a family atmosphere and are playing together, there’s no reason why you can’t do well. That’s what I see at Montana.”
Williams could play a stretch-four role for the Griz, potentially filling the starting position vacated by senior Fabijan Krslovic. He can play down low with his right-hand hook and improving left-hand hook, and he can step out to hit a 3-pointer.
He averaged 8.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, fourth and second on Pacific last season. He was second with 40 made 3-pointers for a 33.9 percent mark behind the arc in a system that didn't play to his strength.
The Griz could use a 3-point shooter after lacking production last year. They had three players make more than 40 and three who shot higher than 33.9 percent, led by Ahmaad Rorie’s 59 makes and Timmy Falls’ 40.7 percent.
“I can definitely stretch the floor, bring toughness, rebounding, decent mid-range, pick and pop 3-pointers, veteran experience and I’m expanding my game,” Williams said. “I feel like me and Mike already have a good chemistry. Me and Ahmaad playing in an open gym with the team, it felt like good chemistry.
“They already have a good team. I feel like the inside-out game will be good. I feel I can open up driving lanes for Ahmaad and Mike, and it’ll create more open shots for other guys on the team.”
Williams was one of only two players to start all 32 games, playing 31 minutes per contest. The Tigers went 14-18 overall and 9-9 in the West Coast Conference, which includes Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.
His best game came against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, when he scored 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. He tallied 15 points and seven rebounds in an overtime loss in the conference tournament quarterfinals.
Williams is from Valencia, California, and was a high school teammate with current Griz guard Mike Oguine at Chaminade High School. As a senior, he was named the CIF Division III player of the year, averaging 16.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game as the team won a state championship.
“Mike was a big part of this whole deal because I’ve known him for six, seven years and we’ve played together,” Williams said. “That was a piece. He and I were a really good duo in high school. We won a state championship and had the most wins in school history.
"That was originally a big factor. Then when I got to campus, everyone else was good to me. That’s pretty much a major reason why.”
ESPN rated him as a top 50 recruit in California coming out of high school. He chose Long Beach State and averaged 2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in 32 games and five starts as a freshman in 2014-15.
He transferred to Pacific to play for head coach Ron Verlin, sat out a season because of transfer rules and had Mike Burns take over as the interim coach. Pacific brought in head coach Damon Stoudamire the first season of eligibility for Williams, who averaged 8.7 points as a redshirt sophomore in 2016-17.
Williams is the Grizzlies’ second commit in the past week. Eddy Egun, a high school senior shooting guard/small forward from California, committed on April 9.
The Griz signed Bozeman senior forward Mack Anderson in November.
They’ll have two more scholarships available in the Class of 2018 should Williams and Egun both sign. They had five spots available with Fabijan Krslovic graduating, and Karl Nicholas, Niko Bevens, Lars Espe and Admir Besovic transferring.