On June 23, Jalen Williams did something that few Santa Clara University (SCU) athletes have ever done—he was drafted into the NBA. Williams was drafted 12th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder, becoming the first SCU basketball player to be selected in the NBA draft since Steve Nash was drafted 15th overall in 1996.
“I think it’s a huge milestone not only for me but the school,” said Williams. “It’s been about 26 years, something like that, where somebody else has been drafted and that was Nash. So, it’s kind of surreal on my end. But at the same time, I think it’s just kind of putting the school on the map as well.”
SCU Director of Athletics Renee Baumgartner agreed.
“The potential of having a first-round pick in this year’s NBA Draft is tremendous for our men’s basketball program,” said Baumgartner before the draft. “Coach Sendek and his staff have been laying the foundation since the first day they stepped on campus, and it is already paying off in major ways as evidenced by last season’s third-place finish in the WCC and a postseason appearance for the first time in 25 years. Jalen Williams becoming a first rounder would just add to that tremendous success that the program has been building towards.”
Williams says the relationships that he formed with Head Coach Herb Sendek and his teammates is what he’ll remember most from his time in Santa Clara.
“I think the relationships that I got through basketball. I met a lot of people that I still talk to today,” said Williams. “And then a bond with my team going through COVID, just getting really close with those guys, and kind of going through something that no other team has really ever gone through, I think was something really special. Then just the atmosphere at Santa Clara alone with the student population, all the way down to my coaches and stuff like that just has been extremely great. So, I’m blessed to kind of have that going.”
Coach Sendek says Oklahoma City is getting not just a great athlete, but a great person as well.
“Jalen is just such a wonderful person and, obviously, a phenomenal athlete,” said Sendek before the draft. “If you’ve ever seen him play in person, I’m sure you can see why the NBA scouts are so high on him right now. He does everything right and just has an uncanny ability to take over games when you need him to the most.
“But as special as he is as an athlete, he’s an even better person off the court,” continued Sendek. “He is always such a treat to be around and has an absolutely wonderful personality. I’m so proud of everything he accomplished here at Santa Clara and I cannot wait to watch his career unfold in the NBA.”
Williams says while he’s ready for the next chapter, he’s grateful for his time at Santa Clara.
“Super, super grateful that everybody is kind of rocking with me and being super supportive throughout this whole process,” said Williams. “I mean, my teachers allowed me to kind of go online for the rest of spring and finish out my school. My teammates and coaches, just the entire school has been super supportive.”