This coming Thursday marks the first NCAA certified live recruiting period of 2015, a time when Division I coaches can contact potential high school prospects, with Friday being the first live evaluation period on the club and AAU circuit.
On Sunday, a pair of high school sophomores without any DI offers – Ishmael El-Amin and Da’Monte Williams – broke out at the NY2LA Sport Swish ‘N Dish tournament in suburban Milwaukee and seemed primed to command the attention of DI coaches this spring and summer.
Their fathers, however, are much more familiar names to basketball fans for now.
Khalid El-Amin led his high school (Minneapolis North) to three straight state crowns, and capped his prep career by coming Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball in 1997 and a McDonald’s All-American. The 5’10, famously stocky, point guard then enjoyed an illustrious 4-year career as UCONN’s floor general in which he helped lead the Huskies to a national championship in 1999.
El-Amin was a second round draft pick of the Chicago Bulls in 2000, and played a season in the NBA but has enjoyed a long career playing professionally overseas ever since.
Ish has already begun to establish himself as one of Minnesota’s best prospects in the class of 2017 at Hopkins High School, and played up an age level at the Swish ‘N Dish with Net Gain’s 17’s squad. The 6-1, wiry guard scored 22 points in a variety of ways Sunday before Net Gain bowed out in the semifinals against the eventual tourney champion St. Louis Eagles 62-61. He’s eager to put his game on display this spring and summer.
“I feel like my jump shot has developed a lot,” El-Amin said. “I improved it a lot and I’m a lot more confident when I pull up. I was born into the point guard position, but I feel like I’m a combo guard now because I’m lengthy. I think I can play the one and two.”
As his prep career continues to progress, and any notoriety that comes with it, evocation to his dad’s legendary high school career and successful collegiate run will be inevitable. But the son doesn’t mind.
“I embrace it, but I’m trying to build my own story,” said El-Amin, who spent some time living with his dad in Ukraine, Russia and Turkey. “He has his, but I’m me and a totally different player than what he was.
“I watch his college games and high school games all the time. I like watching him play. I like to see what he’s got, and what I know I have. He’s a floor leader and controls everything. He’s always talking no matter if he’s winning or losing, so just being a leader on the floor is my favorite part of his game.”
El-Amin claims programs such as UCONN, Stanford, Oregon, Miami and Wisconsin have shown some preliminary interest, but none have offered. Aside from his game, he said he is working on improving his strength in order to elevate his production on the court and is also playing his pops one-on-one whenever he gets the chance. He admitted he’s still got a long way to go to catching his elder.
“All the time, we have battles,” El-Amin said. “He still gets me pretty easy. The first game I’ll give him a little fight, but it’s hard because he still got his game. I’m used to being physical, but I still have to get stronger.”
Da’Monte Williams (Manual/Peoria, IL) said one-on-one games with his dad, Frank Williams, are few and far between.
“The series is one to one now,” Williams said with a smirk. “Last summer was the first time I got him.”
The elder Williams won a pair of state titles with Peoria Manual in 1996 and ’97, then won Illinois’ Mr. Basketball in 1998 over Quentin Richardson and Corey Maggette before playing in the McDonald’s All-American game. Williams stayed close to home for college and dazzled those in Champaign playing for the Fighting Illini as a 6-3 scoring point guard.
Williams earned All-Big Ten honors, and was 2nd team All-American his final year in college before the Nuggets took him with the 25th pick in the 2002 draft (traded to the Knicks on draft day). He played four years in the NBA, but hasn’t played professionally since his stint with Ciclista Olimpico (Argentina) in 2010.
Da’Monte showed flashes of his dad’s wizardry passing the ball in transition at the Swish ‘N Dish while leading Chicago’s famed Mac Irvin Fire to the 16-and-under Platinum division title. Unlike Ish, Da’Monte is almost a carbon copy of his dad at 6’3 with a strong build.
However, much like El-Amin, he’s seen plenty of footage of his dad’s exploits on the court during his storied high school and college career.
“He shows me them all the time,” Williams said. “He shows me how it easy it was to get to the rim, and that it should be the same for me if I keep working. I like his hesitation, when he fakes a three then goes right to the basket and gets an and-one.”
The younger Williams scored the Fire’s last eight points in a semifinals victory over the St. Louis Eagles, including a steal and game-winning layup as time expired in double overtime on his way to 17 points, then scored 19 in the championship win over All-Ohio Red.
His film study of his dad seemed to have paid dividends at the Swish ‘N Dish.
“I’ve been attacking the basket more,” Williams said. “Now that I know how easy it is to get to the rim, I have to stay in attack mode and not settle.”
Playing alongside DI prospects on the Fire 16’s such as Christian Negron (6-6, F, Larkin High), Octavious Parker Jr. (6-2, G, Niles West), Marcus Garrett (6-1, G, Hillcrest), Malik Binns (6-6, F, Hope) and Melo Burrell (6-7, F, Morgan Park) among others, Williams will surely get the opportunity to play in front of some big time college coaches and assistant coaches over the course of the next two years.
Da’Monte has yet to earn any offers, and it’s unfair to expect him to be his father despite the physical similarities. But he said Sunday he’s dedicated to making a name for himself to college coaches and basketball fans alike on the court.
“I just want to keep working so I can maybe achieve some of things he did, and maybe even better,” Williams said. “I just want to keep playing the game, and maybe even be a head coach somewhere. I hope to be at least remembered when my career is over.”
It’s barely just begun.