Amid an outpouring of reaction to Patrick Williams being selected No. 4 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, Coby White was the first Bull to publicly welcome the Florida State forward to Chicago.
“What’s good, Pat man. Welcome to the team, family,” White said in a video posted by the Bulls’ official Twitter. “Excited for you. Congratulations, it’s an honor to have you a part of our organization, man. Can’t wait to get you down here and get to work for sure.”
Williams and White are both North Carolina natives, ACC collegiate alums and represent the most recent two first-round picks in Bulls history. But their bond runs deeper than biographies. Separated by one year in age -- and roughly 220 miles between Charlotte, Williams’ hometown, and Goldsboro, White’s -- the two crossed paths on myriad occasions on the youth basketball scene.
As teammates at the 2018 Josh Level Classic, a non-profit basketball showcase held annually in Greensboro to honor the life of Josh Level, a North Carolina high school basketball player who passed away during a game due to myocarditis in 2013, they grew especially close. They also played for competing AAU squads in the EYBL circuit -- Williams for Team United, and White for Team CP3.
Neither could have guessed then that they’d wind up donning the same NBA threads one day. Still, as Williams navigated an uncertain predraft process prolonged and adapted by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said White offered consistent support.
“We talked I would say every other day since the day I declared for the draft,” Williams said during his first remarks after being selected No. 4 overall by the Bulls. “He’s been a big help, you know, just being a rookie last year just talking about the thing he went through, the things he learned. And then when I get there I'm ready to learn more from him and learn from the other guys, coaching staff...
“I was already close with him, so I kinda leaned on him for questions or advice or anything really I needed for the predraft process. And it's actually kinda crazy that I get drafted to the Bulls… That's my guy for sure.”
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes of listening to Williams speak to glean that he lives his life as a student, of the game of basketball and life. With training camps set to open on Dec. 1 and the season tipping off Dec. 22, that quality will serve him well, as will preexisting relationships on the team.
“This year, for me and the rest of the rookies, is just gonna be about who asks questions, who learns the best and then who has a good vet who takes them under their wing and kind of grooms them,” Williams said. “When I get in Chicago I just want to be around the guys as much as possible and just learn as much as I can.”
For two longtime friends, a chance to reunite under the brightest lights in basketball awaits.