Bulls buddies: Williams, White bring Carolina cool to the locker room
This conversation began with a simple premise about an official visit.
North Carolina natives Coby White and Patrick Williams are known to have a tight bond, probably the closest set of teammates on the current Bulls team.
"You can just tell the camaraderie, the place they come from, is definitely amazing to see," teammate DeMar DeRozan said. "I always make fun of them, asking which one of them is from the cooler part of North Carolina."
The answer to that is neither. Thanks to Michael Jordan, Wilmington is the coolest part of North Carolina, right? Williams is from Charlotte and White from an area slightly east of Raleigh.
They were one year apart in high school, so was there ever an official visit to North Carolina, where White could have hosted Williams for a weekend in Chapel Hill?
Turns out there wasn't. Williams didn't have much interest in becoming a Tar Heel.
"It would have been the time of that boy's life," White said with a laugh. "We would have showed him a good time. You would have committed right after."
Williams said his recruitment was trending toward Florida State by his sophomore year of high school. He took other official visits to Virginia, Virginia Tech, Clemson and N.C. State.
"I should have (visited UNC), right?" Williams said. "I think he (White) was trying to get me to go there, but I was like, 'Nahh.' A little too close to home. My parents would be over there every weekend.
"It was kind of a clear decision for me, as soon as I visited Florida State. Coaching staff, they had been recruiting me since 10th grade, which a lot of schools weren't because I wasn't ranked high starting off."
Apparently, North Carolina wasn't sold on Williams, either. White described a conversation with former coach Roy Williams when they went to watch one of Patrick Williams' games during his senior year of high school.
"He (Roy Williams) said, 'What do you think about that kid right there?,'" White recalled.
"I said, 'You talking about Patrick?'
"He was like, 'Yeah, you know, he's really talented.'
"I'm like, 'Have you offered him? You have to offer him right after this game, coach.'
"He was like, 'Ahh, I just ...'
"I was like, 'Coach, you need to offer him right after this game. He's a unique player. You've got to get him.'
"'I don't know.'
"I was like, 'What are we doing here, bro?'
In hindsight, Williams isn't sorry he skipped North Carolina, since the Tar Heels went an uncharacteristic 14-19 during his lone year of college.
And it's also just as well, because if Williams hit it off with White on his visit and committed to North Carolina thinking he and White would be great teammates, White ended up being a surprise one-and-done, off to the NBA.
"That's how (Toronto's) Scottie Barnes was," Williams said. "He came on the visit (to Florida State) and he was like, 'We're going to kill it next year.' I wasn't planning on leaving, so I was like, 'Yeah,' and I ended up leaving. It ended up working out for him, but that's how it works a lot of times."
Both Williams and White outplayed their high school rankings. Williams was rated the No. 28 player in the Class of '19 by ESPN, then was drafted fourth a year later. White went from No. 23 in high school to No. 7 in the draft.
White ended up getting a good scoop on the Bulls' choice of Williams, which no one saw coming until a few days before the draft.
"What's crazy is he texted me like a month before the draft and was like, 'We about to be teammates,'" White said. "And I was like, 'What you mean?' Then he was like, 'The Bulls talking like they want me.' And I was like, 'Oh, I bet.'
"He didn't know nothing (about the draft process), so he was asking me questions. A week before the draft, he was like, 'I think the Bulls are going to take me.'"
White and Williams are obviously important pieces in the Bulls' future. They're both slowly acclimating to the NBA game. It would be nice if it happened faster, but that's life when you enter the NBA at 19. Lauri Markkanen was disappointing with the Bulls and became an all-star for Utah this year.
White will be a restricted free agent this summer, but there's probably a decent chance he stays with the Bulls. He pegged one of the biggest problems himself last weekend, pointing out he's shooting 43% from 3-point range in the fourth quarter this season, but 33% in the first three quarters.
It could be argued White and Williams make the Bulls locker room a more pleasant place. Williams is laid back and doesn't seem bothered by the ups and downs of NBA life. White keeps things lively when he's in a good mood.
"They're great people, they always stick together," said Zach LaVine, who sits next to White and Williams in the locker room. "I think they have a close bond just being from that area."