Three hours and a grade separated Coby White and Patrick Williams as they grew up in North Carolina. But AAU summer tournaments connected the two.
“I never lost to Team United,” White said, smiling. “We got that job done.”
White, who played for the Chris Paul-sponsored Team CP3, said this as he sat next to Williams during an appearance on the Bulls Talk Podcast. White even sank a game-winning shot over Williams once.
“North Carolina basketball is real tight knit,” Williams said. “So the best players all know each other, whether you met them or played against them or know somebody who played against them. It’s a real family-type thing. So I always knew of him.”
In fact, Williams said White’s chatterbox and humorous ways prevailed even back during high school. One of White’s AAU teammates who Williams knew would send snippets of White’s playfulness via SnapChat.
“I’d be dying laughing. ‘Yo, this is what Cob did,’” Williams said, laughing. “But everybody knows that’s Coby. That’s what comes with Coby. He’s been the same way since forever.”
Little could the two North Carolina-raised hoopsters know they’d one day be NBA teammates, spending their three shared seasons with the Chicago Bulls to build an even stronger bond. On the road or at home, in the locker room or on the court, the two are invariably spotted together, often laughing.
They get their hair braided together at Williams’ house. They go out to eat together sometimes.
“I would definitely say we’ve gotten closer,” Williams said.
And now they’re playing minutes together after Bulls coach Billy Donovan moved Williams to a reserve role, two seasons after they both often started together.
“He can get on me. I can get on him,” Williams said. “It’s a level of accountability that we all hold each other to. It’s never any egos. I know a lot of times when I’m playing bad and he’ll come and say, ‘Pat, wake up.’ Or sometimes we both may not have it and he’ll say, ‘Yo, we gotta wake up.’ We’re on the bench saying, ‘Can we get some Fast Twitch [energy drink] or something?’ We want the best from each other.”
The outgoing White and more reserved Williams may seem an unlikely pair. But White not only revealed that Williams is an “old soul” who drives an “old school Corvette” and turned him on to Earth, Wind & Fire but also that he’s more talkative than what Williams shows publicly.
“Way more. He’s a humble, quiet kid. But once you get to know him and get him to open up, he talks a lot. He’s funny, smart. He’s grown a lot,” White said. “He’s opened up a lot from when he first got here to now.”
When Williams first arrived the day after the 2020 NBA draft, his first call was to White. Soon, Williams found himself at Zach LaVine’s house with White, playing video games and talking about the league.
“He texted me maybe a month before the draft and said, ‘What’s up teammate?’ And I was like ‘What do you mean?’ And he was like, ‘I think I’m coming to the Bulls,’” White said. “Then I was with Zach at Zach’s house when he got drafted. You know how Zach is. He’s like, ‘You know him?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I know him!’ He said, ‘Is he good?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, he’s good!’”
White promptly pulled up some YouTube highlights of Williams from open gym runs leading up to the draft.
“He was cooking,” White said. “Zach was like, ‘He’s nice!’”
And White remains one of Williams’ biggest believers.
“You already know what his ceiling is. I tell you all the time---superstar,” White said.
In fact, White said he thinks Williams will be a multiple All-Star.
“It’s going to come. He’s too talented, too big, too strong not to be,” White said. “And what we talk about all the time is we want to play 15-20 years in the league. The one thing that he always says is we’ll do it because we genuinely love basketball. In this league, some guys don’t genuinely love it. The more you genuinely love it, the harder you work at it.
“We just love playing basketball. We find our happiest moments on the basketball court. That’s why he’s going to be an All-Star. He has all the attributes to be one and he loves basketball.”
Williams pointed to White’s similar love for the game as a big reason why his individual defense and ballhandling has improved in his fourth season.
But Williams also credited White for his off-the-court talents.
“If it’s an awkward moment, he’s really good at breaking the ice, saying something that gets everybody laughing,” Williams said. “He has jokes with everybody. A lot of times you see it where certain players only hang with certain people and they only talk with certain people. He has a joke with everybody. He can troll anybody at any moment. And I think it’s good to have that because it pieces the whole locker room together.”