Recruiting: Jonathan Williams III Chooses Missouri over Michigan State, Georgetown

A new conference home isn’t changing the recent upswing in recruiting for Frank Haith and Missouri.

The Tigers sauntered into Memphis—an emerging hotbed of hoops talent where another group of Tigers calls home—and scampered out with one of the top prospects in the class of 2013 sandwiched between their teeth. Mizzou earned a huge oral commitment from 4-star forward Jonathan Williams III on Thursday when Williams, a dynamic prospect who plays his high school ball at Southwind HS, chose Missouri over Michigan State, Georgetown and hometown Memphis.

A long and gangly combo forward who can score inside and out, Williams, who goes by the nickname “J3,” is at his best running the break and scoring in transition. Hence the Missouri fit. Of the other potential landing spots, Haith’s Tigers presented the best package, offering an up-tempo offensive system conducive to J3’s skills and the chance to play immediately. Williams couldn’t pass that up.

J3’s combination of length and athleticism allows him to defend taller players—he can guard a 3, 4 or 5—while presenting a matchup nightmare for opposing power forwards on offense. The 6-foot-8 lefty forward is regarded as one of the most versatile offensive forwards in the class.

Williams played for Team USA’s U-17 team with a sports hernia that required surgery. He was temporarily shut down from all AAU activity and used the down time to expedite what had been a methodical recruitment.

Williams is the third Missouri pledge in the class of 2013—joining point guards Wesley Clark and Travis Jorgenson—and the third high-profile prospect to commit to Haith in the last four months. In addition to Clark, who committed in August, Haith also pinned down a verbal commitment from class of 2014 point guard Anton Beard in early June. Williams is the first non-point guard to occupy a spot on Haith’s 2013 [or 2014, for that matter] recruiting cupboard.

J3 is one of many prized talents from the Memphis area and the first to choose a school outside of the Volunteer State. Nick King (East HS, committed to Memphis), JaJuan Johnson (Southwind HS, uncommitted) and Austin Nichols (Briarcrest HS, uncommitted) are also from the area. Johnson will decide between Alabama, Marquette and Miami (FL) on November 2 while Nichols is weighing offers from Tennessee, Memphis and Duke.