5 things to know about former Tennessee star and Celtics draft pick Grant Williams

He was in a musical in high school.

Grant Williams speaks with the media during the second day of the NBA draft basketball combine in Chicago. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo

When Celtics coach Brad Stevens spoke about Grant Williams on Thursday, one of the first traits he highlighted was Williams’s intelligence.

Stevens, addressing members of the media at the Auerbach Center, pointed out that the former Tennessee star is “super smart” and “a guy with a point guard’s mind.” Williams, of course, is 6-foot-7, 236 pounds, but Stevens is impressed by his versatility and sharpness on the court.

“We’re looking forward to having him,” Stevens said. “We think he translates well. You couldn’t be more impressed with a kid when you sit down with him.”

Here are five things to know about Williams.

He was named SEC Player of the Year twice.

Williams leaves the University of Tennessee as one of the most accomplished players in program history. As the reigning two-time Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, he increased his scoring in each of his three seasons in college.


He was a consensus 2018-19 All-America First Team selection and was also a finalist for the 2018-19 Wooden Award, averaging 15.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 104 games (101 starts) throughout his three-year career. His 160 blocked shots rank third on Tennessee’s all-time leaderboard.

Williams, 20, is confident his skills will translate to the next level, and he’s drawn comparisons to Houston Rockets wing P.J. Tucker. He attempted 23 free throws in a game against Vanderbilt this past January.

“I’m a guy who, on the offensive end, can initiate the offense, but also be a guy who’s screening, moving the ball efficiently, and knocking down open shots,” he told reporters in a conference call. “I feel like I will fit really well because of the versatility I bring.”

His mother works for NASA.

Don’t tell Williams that the world is flat. Not only is he not buying it, but he knows it’s not true.


His mother, Teresa Johnson, is an engineer for NASA in Houston, Texas, and she’s filled him in on some secrets about how the universe works.

“With my mom, I don’t really think of theories,” he told Stadium’s Shams Charania. “I kind of know for sure what’s what. It’s kind of nice to have that mindset.”

He had offers from Ivy League schools.

Williams was recruited by Harvard and Yale, among other Ivy League schools, but he turned them down to go to Tennessee.

“Even though I was recruited by the Ivy League … I thought the academics here would be successful with my major (supply chain management),” Williams told the Knoxville News Sentinel at the time. “And the fact that my family could come to games almost every time we played. And I had the opportunity to play for a guy (Rick Barnes) who’s one of the most impactful coaches with his players in America.”


He said he’s always placed a great deal of emphasis on academics, adding that he felt honored to have such tremendous opportunities.

He was in a musical in high school.

As a senior at Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina, Williams was in the musical “Anything Goes.” He even had a solo.

He called the experience amazing, pointing out that the show is a comedy. He also played piano growing up and has many interests outside of basketball.

“I was instilled in a lot of musical instruments, as well as a lot of talents, by my grandfather, who taught and played multiple instruments,” Williams told the Sentinel. The fact is, I really enjoyed it. So I was in the musical my senior year, when I had a little bit of time.”

He said all the right things in his first conference call.

Williams told reporters Thursday that he was drafted by the best franchise possible, adding that his grandfather is a huge Celtics fan.


He said he’s eager to learn from Stevens and Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations. Williams also threw around the right names, including Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, showing that he knows the history of the franchise.

“When I heard my name called by Boston,” he told reporters, “I sighed of relief.”