Ray Brewer, iphone photo
Friday, March 15, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The first thing visitors see when walking into the coaches’ office at Findlay Prep is an impressive display of McDonald’s All-American jerseys framed and hanging on the walls.
The Pilots — who have won three of the past four ESPN National High School Invitational championships, are ranked No. 1 nationally and are undefeated this season — have had seven players selected for the prestigious McDonald’s game in the past five seasons.
Nigel Williams-Goss, unlike the other six players before him, didn’t follow the same path in reaching the April 3 game at the United Center in Chicago. The senior guard is Findlay’s first four-year player, developing early in his career behind All-American guards Cory Joseph (San Antonio Spurs) and Myck Kabongo (University of Texas).
Findlay Prep takes the best players from across world, traveling to top-notch tournaments all season to develop numerous blue-chip recruits.
Williams-Goss, who is signed with Washington, could have been the star at his local high school in the Pacific Northwest. Instead, he chose to attend Findlay Prep, which, at least early in his career, translated into limited minutes.
“(Playing at Findlay) has had its ups and downs” Williams-Goss said Thursday during an event at a local McDonald’s to celebrate his All-American selection. “I started out not playing at all and sitting the bench. I had to work hard and pay my dues to be in the position I am in now.”
Williams-Goss is one of 24 players selected for the game, which has among its alumni the likes of LeBron James and Derrick Rose.
Entering the year, however, Williams-Goss wasn’t considered one of the nation’s best players. He’s a four-star recruit out of five stars by evaluating site rivals.com, which classifies him as the nation’s 19th best guard and 61st overall prospect.
“It didn’t really make sense to me,” Williams-Goss said of the low ranking. “I didn’t understand why it happened to me. For me, it just pushed me and made me work harder. I never stopped pushing myself.”
His stock changed in mid-January with a legendary performance against then-No.1 Montverde. Williams-Goss scored 18 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter and hit a game-winning 3-pointer, helping Findlay erase an 18-point second-half deficit to extend its winning streak to 42 games..
The game was televised by ESPNU. Almost immediately, he was considered for the McDonald’s game.
He often gives his teammates credit for the success, even for the game against Montverde when he was a one-man show.
“That is the reason I came to Findlay, to play against the best players in the country on a daily basis,” he said. “I wouldn’t be in the position I am now if it wasn’t for the players I’ve played with the last four years.”
Findlay coach Todd Simon doesn’t spend much time worrying about what others say about his powerhouse program. He’s quickly learned everyone has an opinion — some positive, some negative.
Williams-Goss' low ranking, however, did catch his eye. And rightfully so.
He is averaging about 18 points, 7.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game and will wrap up his Findlay career next month near the top of several statistical categories.
“We never really (follow) those things. A little of it, I always say, will come out in the laundry,” Simon said. “At the end of the day, we know how good he is. But we noticed. It is one of the things you certainly roll your eyes at.”