By Braedan Shea
As five-star recruit Mikey Williams’s first season as a high school basketball player came to its conclusion, he had already built a colorful list of accolades that many would envy through four years, much less just one. During that 2019-2020 freshman campaign at San Ysidro High School (CA), Williams established himself as a superstar, averaging almost 30 points per game, to go along with 6.7 rebounds and 4.3 per game.
Although coming into high school already on the national radar for his incredible highlight-reel dunking ability, Williams quickly made it abundantly clear that he was more than just a dunker. He scored 41 points in his first-ever high school game, and followed that up three days later with his first 50-piece. His best, however, was yet to come.
In the ninth game of the season, and coming off of a 51-point performance a day prior, Williams exploded. In what is possibly still his best game to date, Williams put up a mind-boggling 77 points, outscoring his opponents by 25. He thrashed his defenders all over the court, hitting 29 total shots, nine of which came from behind the arc. The performance also broke the single game CIF San Diego Section scoring record, one that had stood for 13 years.
Williams capped off his extraordinary season in the only way that seemed fitting: winning the San Diego Section Division III championship. He was also named as the National Freshman of the Year, adding his name to a list that includes NBA players LaMelo Ball and Onyeka Okongwu (2016), Marvin Bagley III (2015) and Trey Lyes (2011), among others.
San Ysidro High School seemed poised to be a national powerhouse, as long as Williams was at the helm. Going into his sophomore year, the Cougars were loaded with talent – including fellow sophomore phenom Jurian Dixon, who was named to the Freshman All-American team with Williams – and had a national schedule. Until they didn’t.
With the Coronavirus pandemic still in its early stages, high school sports in California were up in the air, and later were pushed back several months. Out of fear of not having a season, Williams made the hard decision to leave his hometown, and transferred out to Vertical Academy Basketball.
Vertical Academy Basketball is an elite athletics program based in Charlotte, North Carolina for exceptional high-school basketball players. The program was developed to provide training and guidance to student-athletes as they work toward the NCAA. But because the program is not considered as a “school”, the team could only play in showcase tournaments, meaning that Williams was unable to compete for another state championship.
After averaging 23 points, 6.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game during last season’s junior campaign, Williams was in attendance as San Ysidro lost to St. Augustine in the San Diego Open Division championship game last season. And Williams got to witness a familiar face hoist the trophy for Saints – former freshman teammate, Jurian Dixon. When Williams left for Vertical Academy Basketball, Dixon also left, instead staying local by transferring to cross-town team, St. Augustine. Additionally, he was named as the San Diego Section Player of the Year last season.
Less than a month after watching Dixon win, on April 9, 2022, Williams announced in a YouTube video that he was going to return to San Ysidro for his senior year.
“This is the perfect ending, playing my first and last year at San Ysidro,” Williams said during an interview with Overtime. “I want to win a state championship.”
Dixon also feels that his success in the city didn’t have much to do with Wiliiams’s return. “I think it’s separate,” he said. “I think he probably wanted to come back home, and it’s cool to see him back in the city, of course.”
Williams’s return to California also helps him promote his ever-growing social media presence, forcing him atop the list for Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals. He currently has over six million combined followers across Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. In 2021, he became the first high school athlete to sign an NIL deal with a major sports marketing agency, Excel Sports Management, and a global footwear brand, PUMA. Williams has an NIL valuation of $3.6 million, second among all high school and college basketball athletes, per the new On3 NIL 100, behind only Bronny James.
Earlier this year, Williams also announced that he will be heading to Memphis, choosing the Tigers over Kansas, San Diego State, and USC among others. He is currently ranked No. 30 in ESPN top 100.
But with all eyes on him this season, and in the efforts to bring a state championship back to San Ysidro, the journey for Williams has not been easy. The Cougars, who lost eight seniors on last season’s championship appearance team, are currently 9-8, and 2-4 in their last six games. Despite a 24-point, six-assist effort against Christopher Columbus High School in the Hoophall Classic, Williams and San Ysidro were unable to come out on top, losing 74-67.
St. Augustine, on the other hand, has started the season hot. The Saints have nearly all of last year’s team back again, and they are running through opponents. They are currently 16-3 after outlasting East Catholic High School (CT) 67-57 at the Hoophall Classic. A game in which Dixon won game Most Valuable Player, stuffing the stat sheet with 22 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals.
And there was some communication between the two about reuniting at San Ysidro.
“I think there was a conversation,” Dixon said. “It just didn’t happen. I’m good where I’m at.”
With a return to San Diego with the goal to win a state championship, Williams and San Ysidro will need to dig deep.
Photo: Nick S. / The Springfield Student