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Along the lines of Petrovic, Wagner and Bias, former Duke star Jay Williams' budding career was tragically derailed at or near its onset.
Throughout his high school and college years, the 6'2" Williams earned just about every basketball accolade possible. The path that he was on typically ends in multiple All-Star appearances in the NBA, if not more. Not only was Williams phenomenally ahead of his years on the court, he was a stand-up citizen and extremely hard worker, earning academic distinction at every stop.
Williams left Duke as one of the program's most popular, successful and beloved players ever, which says a lot about a player from such a storied program as Duke's. He left with the 2001 National Championship, a National Freshman of the Year award, the Naismith and Wooden awards, a retired No. 22 jersey, and a degree in sociology in tow.
He'd accomplished what most basketball players can only dream of, but he had only scratched the surface of his basketball potential, and he was going to discover how high he could go in the NBA.
Or so everyone thought.
After being selected second overall in 2002 by the Chicago Bulls after, ironically, Yao Ming, Williams oscillated between inconsistency and brilliance, starting most of the season at point guard. His 9.5 points and 4.7 assists per game were counted as progress by the Bulls' coaching staff as Williams exited his rookie season.
The Bulls never got to see how much Williams could improve, though.
On June 19, 2003, Williams crashed a motorcycle into a lightpole at a Chicago intersection, which resulted in a severed nerve in his left leg, a fractured pelvis and the complete shredding of his left knee. He was not wearing a helmet, nor was he licensed in Illinois to operate a motorcycle. He was also prohibited from riding a motorcycle in his contract, which the Bulls were permitted to void because of his violation of it.
Williams underwent extensive and long-term therapy just to regain the use of his leg, and stated his intention to eventually return to the Bulls.
Williams never made it back to the Bulls, but impressed scouts enough in 2006 to earn a non-guaranteed contract with the Nets. Unfortunately, he was waived a week before the season started, and he never attempted a return to the NBA again.
Williams, just like Wagner, was a dynamic guard prospect who had limitless potential in the pros. They are two among the most popular prospects gone tragically bad of the last 15 years in the NBA draft.