KELLY Williams was an easy choice for Sta. Lucia Realty in the 2006 PBA Rookie Draft.
So easy it was, with then team manager Buddy Encarnado prophetically declaring a championship is around the corner for his team when they acquired Williams as the top selection in that draft exercise on Aug. 20, 2006.
Williams took just a year to settle down in the pros and, in his fourth conference, led Sta. Lucia Realty to a tough conquest of Purefoods in the 2007 Philippine Cup finale.
The 6-foot-6 Fil-Am player out of Oakland U, whose mother Andrea Pasco Williams hails from Cebu, was a prized catch that Sta. Lucia only gave up when it's about to sell its franchise to Meralco.
Williams didn't change his ways with TNT, helping the franchise collect five titles from 2010 onwards.
After 14 seasons in the local pro hoop laced with an MVP award, several other individual citations and tours of duty with the national team, Williams announced he's hanging his sneakers.
"The Machine Gun is signing off," the 38-year-old Williams posted on Twitter Monday.
"It's is with gladness and sadness that I announce my retirement from basketball. I could not have predicted that I'd have the kind of career I was able to experience," he added.
But it was so clear in Encarnado's crystal ball that it was a no-brainer when they announced Williams as their choice in the 2006 draft.
"Championship is now around the corner for us," said Encarnado shortly after officially netting Williams from that rich rookie draft also featuring No. 2 pick Arwind Santos (Air21), No. 3 Joseph Yeo (Coca-Cola) and No. 4 LA Tenorio (San Miguel Beer).
JayR Reyes was also part of the 2006 Class of rookies. Together with Junjun Cabatu and Jay Sagad, they were three amateur players carried over by Welcoat from its PBL lineup.
But Williams was really the easy choice then.
"He's very athletic and could play the off-guard, small forward and power forward positions," said then Sta. Lucia coach Alfrancis Chua.
In no time, Williams proved he's a gem of a player.(SB)