LINCOLN, Neb. (BVM) — A year ago, Donovan Williams was recovering from a torn ACL and still committed to playing Big Ten basketball in his home state for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Now he’s Nebraska’s Mr. Basketball and a key part of Oklahoma State’s highly-ranked 2020 recruiting class.
After missing the first 10 games of his senior year at North Star High School, Williams decommitted from Nebraska and proceeded to explode in the final two-thirds of the season for the Navigators, averaging 28 points in 14 games and making himself even more of a highly sought-after prize for his college suitors.
“I knew there was a chance that I could go out there and do something great,” Williams said, “and obviously it worked out good.”
Williams was already an established star for the Navigators after a junior season in which he helped lead the team to the final four of the Class A state tournament. But as a senior, he matured as a player thanks to a renewed focus that can be credited in part to his recovery from injury.
“I think that was the big thing with this whole injury process is I learned a lot of things I didn’t know before,” Williams said. “My game kind of went from showboaty, really electric to more mature and more mellow, which is good because in college you’re not going to be flying in there, dunking on guys. This year I showed a more mature side of me, knowing when to finish at the rim, knowing when to go up against certain guys; just playing smart and taking care of my body as much as I can.”
North Star head coach Anthony Quattrocchi said Williams was also a valuable teammate and leader from the bench prior to returning to action and becoming the most dominant scorer on the court.
“He kind of went from being an assistant coach to being one of the best players in recent history in our state,” Quattrocchi said.
Williams’ initial plan to sign with Nebraska was set in motion in 2018 when he verbally committed to former head coach Tim Miles, who was replaced by Fred Hoiberg in March of last year. Williams tore his ACL during an AAU game the following month and stayed committed until December when he announced he was reopening his recruitment.
Williams said he no longer felt wanted at Nebraska, nor did he have a healthy relationship with Hoiberg.
“That’s the main thing you need when you go to college is a relationship with the coach,” Williams said, “and it wasn’t there at all. That’s the main reason I opened it up and I don’t regret it.”
Williams has a better relationship with Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton, which is one of the reasons he picked the Cowboys over his other two finalists, Kansas State and Texas. Williams was also excited to join a promising group of freshmen that includes Cade Cunningham, the No. 1-ranked recruit in the country. Rivals.com ranks the Cowboys’ 2020 recruiting class as the fourth-best in the nation.
Both Cunningham and Williams decided to stay with Oklahoma State even after the program was placed on three years probation and banned from the 2020-21 postseason after an NCAA investigation found that former Cowboys assistant coach Lamont Evans accepted bribes to influence student-athletes.
Quattrocchi calls Williams ‘the most overall talented player’ he’s coached in 17 years at North Star, and he fully expects that talent will translate to the level of play of high-major Division I basketball.
“He’s definitely physically ready and has the talent to play in the Big 12,” Quattrocchi said. “He’s shown a tremendous amount of growth over his high school career, not just the physical attributes of a basketball player but the mental part of the game. He’s grown immensely and developed mental toughness. I think he’s pretty well-prepared to have an immediate impact at Oklahoma State.”