Saturday night will be a homecoming of sorts for Miami Heat rookie shooting guard Matt Williams.
The Heat may be getting ready to take on the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center that night for preseason basketball, but for the 6-5 rookie, playing in Orlando – his home – is a realization of his hard work.
“It feels good just to know that my hard work is starting to pay off. I’m with a great organization, and it couldn’t be better,” Williams told the Miami Herald after the team’s shootaround practice on Friday.
Williams featured in Miami’s first two preseason games this month, scoring 4 points in both games against the Atlanta Hawks, last Sunday, and Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.
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Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra praised the Orlando-native on his work ethic, saying he’s made progress since joining the team during the NBA Summer League last July, which eventually led to a professional contract later that month.
“The only thing we talked with Matt with is we are going to absolutely invest in him as a professional basketball player. Embrace him in our culture,” said Spoelstra. “We want him to embrace every resource that we have for him to get better… he’s been terrific about that. He has a great work ethic, you can see why he was successful in college. He has that intangible of being up to shoot the basketball. And he does that a pro level right now, which is unique for a college graduate from UCF to adjust to the pro line. He’s very comfortable.”
Williams, 23, signed with the Heat on July 27 as an undrafted player from the University of Central Florida.
It was his time with the Knights that spurred the opportunity to join the Heat during the NBA Summer League in Orlando last summer.
His performances with Miami in July is what paved the way for Williams to eventually join the organization professionally.
“What makes him more comfortable is the fact he spent the summer in our player development program. Played summer league with us in those three weeks. He’s been with us from August, so it gives him an idea on what our culture is all about,” said Spoelstra.
Williams knows he isn’t guaranteed a final roster spot before the Heat tipoff their regular season later this month against his hometown team, the Magic.
What Williams does know is his hard work is being recognized and he’ll leave it at that.
“As of right now, I’m trying to do what I can do as a rookie,” said Williams. “Whatever he wants me to come in and do. If he wants me to play defense, I’ll play defense. Right now, I’m in the process of trying to learn everything and get accustom to all the players. I’m more so in observation mode as I’m trying to learn the offense and follow the guys in front of me.”
In terms of his work ethic, which was praised by Spoelstra, Williams credits his upbringing in Central Florida.
“It just comes from who I am. From my upbringing, I had to work for everything that I have,” he added. “I just feel like since I’m here, I’m not satisfied. My next step is to keep advancing in my profession. So, I have to keep working, following the guys that have been here and just do a good job.”