Jalen Williams is the Surprise of the 2022 NBA Draft

Santa Clara junior guard Jalen Williams couldn’t be found on a single mock draft a month ago. He had recently wrapped up his third season with the Broncos, where he averaged 18.0 points per game on a team that received little to no national attention. Williams made the All-WCC First Team, and the next question was what the offseason had in store for him.

The 21-year-old was just one of the many to throw their hat in the ring for the NBA Draft with a chance to receive feedback and return to college for his senior year. Becoming a first-round selection in the 2022 NBA Draft was a pipe dream for the Arizona native.

Then the NBA Scouting Combine happened.

Williams was one of 76 NBA Draft prospects who received an invite to the combine in May. He showed up and immediately caught the eyes of scouts across the league. That will happen when you measure at a 7′ 2.75″ wingspan on a 6′ 5″ frame, the longest wingspan among any backcourt prospects at this year’s combine. To give a comparison, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is 6′ 11″ with a 7′ 3″ wingspan.

This was just the start for Williams. Strong showings against fellow prospects in the scrimmages displayed to scouts a player who has a knack for scoring and can do a little bit of everything. He poured in 19 points on seven-for-eight from the field in a scrimmage by scoring at all three levels, as he advertised his skills at a smooth pace with playmaking ability. The WCC product also flashed the ability to finish at the rim and knock down triples, something he did at a 39.6 percent clip in his junior season.

Williams is close to being a projected lottery pick and may be the only mid-major player selected in the first round. After all, he is used to proving scouts wrong as a former 5′ 11″ high school senior with zero Division I offers. Now, he’s proving scouts wrong at the NBA level.

The icing on the cake? A green room invite for Williams, the only mid-major player to receive one for this year’s draft. It nearly completes an underdog story for the ages, one that will come full circle when he hears his name called by commissioner Adam Silver on Thursday night.