Two transfers hope to revive their college careers in Foggy Bottom, searching for a fresh start as major contributors for men’s basketball this season.
Redshirt junior guards DJ Williams and Armel Potter arrived at GW last year to play for head coach Maurice Joseph after stints at their previous schools did not meet their expectations. The duo brings experience to a team with no four-year seniors and a young but eager backcourt that has yet to prove it can handle a fast-paced transition offense.
“I definitely see this as a second opportunity so I can finally show what I’m capable of and how I can impact the team,” Williams said.
The two transfers are next in a long line of impactful players who have restarted their college careers in Foggy Bottom. Forward Isaiah Armwood led GW to a 25-9 record during the 2013-14 season, his final as a Colonial, and forward Tyler Cavanaugh helped the Colonials to a program-best 29-10 record and an NIT Championship in 2016. Others have come from mid-level programs and thrived, playing key roles after transitioning to the Atlantic 10.
Williams hails from the Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, where he played alongside NBA lottery pick Jabari Parker. Parker once compared Williams to fellow Chicago-native and current New Orleans Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor, calling him “next in line.”
“I played all different positions in high school, and I played point guard, and not a lot of people know that,” Williams said. “I can facilitate as well, and I can be a great defender, which is something I want to prove to people.”
He entered his career at Illinois with lofty expectations, as he was touted the No. 64 recruit in the 2015 ESPN 100, but played sparingly for the team. He appeared in only 17 games as a sophomore, including two career starts, and had a career-high of just nine points in a game.
As a recruit Potter was an unranked, two-star guard and did not make as many waves as Williams during the recruiting process.
During the same period, Potter was a major contributor at Charleston Southern, but the Big South program garnered just 21 wins between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons while Potter was on the roster.
The Buccaneers held a losing record of 9-21 during Potter’s freshman campaign. The rookie made 25 starts and averaged 13.8 points in 30 minutes per game to earn All-Big South Conference Freshman Team honors.
Despite the players’ disappointing pasts at Division I programs, head coach Maurice Joseph said Williams and Potter are ready to come off the bench into important positions on this year’s roster.
Joseph said Williams, a 6-foot-7-inch guard, stands out for his ability guard up and down the court on the defensive end.
“Offensively, he’s a guy who can pull smaller guards and go around bigger forwards,” Joseph said. “So he has versatility there.”
Williams stormed out of the gates in an exhibition game against Catholic last month, where he defined his first game as a Colonial by scoring a team-leading 15 points.
“His ability to score around the rim is tremendous,” sophomore guard Terry Nolan Jr. said. “His postgame is, I want to say, NBA-level.”
Potter, a 6-foot-1-inch combo guard who can both score and distribute the ball, will be a good fit in an offense trying to pick up its pace from last season, Joseph said.
“He brings a tremendous amount of speed and dynamics with the ball,” Joseph said. “He’s a blur in transition, he has great quickness in the half court and has the ability to get his feet in the paint almost at will.”
In their time away from the floor last season, both guards said they took the opportunity to tune up their play and get game-ready ahead of their return to the game.
A seat on the bench gave Potter a bird’s eye view that he said improved his mental game and gave him a new perspective to apply to his own in-game decisions.
“I was watching a lot of people’s body language, the way people reacted to this and that,” Potter said. “Those were the things I was really paying attention to that I knew I had to work on myself in order to be the best me on the court.”
During Williams’ year off the court, he said he hit the gym to work on his conditioning and improve his jump shot since his days at Illinois.
“I think the notion at Illinois was that you can sag off me and let me shoot a jump shot and just live with it,” Williams said. “But I don’t think people will want to do that now.”