So far, all Nigel Williams-Goss has seen of his next pro club is videos on the Internet.
As he labored over the decision to play overseas or try to make the cut in Utah Jazz training camp, several people he went to for advice said he should look at what home games are like for KK Partizan club based in Serbia. Williams-Goss was astounded by what he saw: stands full of loud, passionate fans that could rival even many college atmospheres.
“I thought games were crazy at Gonzaga,” he said in an interview with The Tribune. ”These guys put that to shame.”
The 55th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft announced Monday morning that he had agreed to terms with Partizan, deferring his NBA future for at least one more year.
The 22-year-old former Washington and Gonzaga star announced his decision via Twitter, thanking the Jazz for an opportunity to come to training camp, but saying he had other plans.
“I’ve decided its [sic] in my best interest to spend my first season as a professional overseas to further my development,” he tweeted.
It was a decision, Williams-Goss told the The Tribune, that came down to playing time. After an uneven summer league and facing competition with a stacked cadre of Jazz guards to make the roster, he thought it would be best for his future to give overseas hoops a try — giving him more playing time and potentially boosting his development.
The choice was made after many conversations with Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey and his agent.
“Even if I were to make the [Jazz] this year, there weren’t going to be a lot of minutes,” Williams-Goss said. ”At this point in my career, I want to be getting a lot of minutes and staying fresh. If I can do that at a high level with Partizan, I think that will be good for me.”
The Belgrade-based club is among the most historically competitive in Eastern Europe, holding six Adriatic League championships. Bogdan Bogdanovic is one recent player to emerge from the club into the NBA ranks.
Williams-Goss was among the best players in college basketball last year for national runner-up Gonzaga, averaging 16.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. He was the West Coast Conference’s player of the year, and a consensus All-American.
Before that, he was a two-year standout at Washington, establishing himself as one of the best players in the Pac-12 before deciding to transfer after his sophomore year.
Williams-Goss is hopeful that his do-a-bit-of-everything style and his attitude will translate well to the European game.
“You can tell that winning is very important to their organization,” he said. “Everything to me starts with winning. Whatever we have to sacrifice individually, my whole mentality is for the team.”
While the Jazz drafted him on the strength of his college credentials, his NBA future remained unclear. He was uneven and sometimes overmatched during both Utah and Las Vegas summer league play. While he got an invite to Jazz training camp, he faced an uphill battle to make a roster stacked with point guards Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum, Donovan Mitchell and Raul Neto.
But his European exit does not necessarily mean that he’s done with the Jazz: Utah will retain his draft rights as an asset. Williams-Goss has a two-year deal with Partizan, but has a second-year buyout clause built into his contract that the Jazz said they’d be willing to consider if he excels and they want to bring him back.
Williams-Goss leaves Wednesday for training camp.
Utah has signed its other two draft picks from this year: 13th overall pick Mitchell and 28th overall pick Tony Bradley. Jazz training camp begins in mid-September.