His rookie season with the Celtics has been on hold for 10 weeks, leaving Grant Williams plenty of time to fill.
The 22nd player taken in last year’s NBA draft moved back home to North Carolina, where he is living with teammate Kemba Walker during the coronavirus pandemic, and he is playing his beloved board games and video games in addition to working out.
Since the middle of April, Williams also has been serving as a mentor to six high school students in the Boston area, meeting with them via videoconferences.
The sessions have been rewarding for Williams, a University of Tennessee graduate, and he is looking forward to meeting the students in person.
“It’s honestly been great,’’ said Williams, who took part in a videoconference with the media on Thursday afternoon. “It’s kind of fun to not only give them advice about how my high school experience was and to step outside of yourself, to be comfortable being different and to learn as much as possible.
“I was amazed by a couple of them because they have different interests, different goals in life. I was just inspired. Hopefully, I can do the same for them and give them some guidance as well as keep their paths aligned to successful paths in the future.’’
Williams is working with the students through MENTOR, a national program that connects volunteers with young people.
“I want to thank MENTOR for giving me this opportunity to lead six talented African-American young men and trusting me to provide wisdom, guidance and hope for the future,’’ said Williams in a press release issued by the organization.
“I have been afforded many opportunities in my life and being able to give back allows me to inspire and give them a step forward in a race where they will be faced with many obstacles. It’s super important to me to be able to work with these young men because they will be the leaders of our next generation.’’
Williams and the six students have met several times over the past month, discussing a variety of issues.
“It was a perfect match with them,’’ Williams said Thursday. “I got to meet some great kids. Hopefully, in the future, when we get back to Boston and we’re back to normal, we can do some things, like bowling or actually hang out in person.’’
Williams decided to return home to North Carolina after the NBA stopped the season in March because of the pandemic.
Walker, who signed with the Celtics last July after playing with the Charlotte Hornets, still has a house in North Carolina and invited Williams to join him.
“It’s been amazing, just hanging out, relaxing and being able to get to know each other better as well as work out together,’’ Williams said. “We’re here, we’re isolated and we have weights.
“He actually offered it because I was debating coming home. I was worried because I knew I would be in and out of [Williams’ family] house working out at different places if possible or going somewhere to stay active. [Walker] said, ‘If you want, you can stay with me.’
“I took him up on the offer and I’m thankful. As much as I talk, I’m glad he even considered it.’’
Walker has a basketball court outside of his house, so the two are able to shoot and work on their ball handling.
“He’s great,’’ Williams said. “He just relaxes a lot and takes care of himself. He’s not really high maintenance He’s a great dude. He’s one of the best human beings I’ve met through this whole process. He’s a genuine guy.’’
Williams had appeared in 62 of the Celtics’ 64 games, earning a spot in the rotation because of his frontcourt versatility.
Coach Brad Stevens has used Williams even at center, and he was playing 15.6 minutes per game, averaging 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds.
Williams is hoping that the NBA will be playing games again soon, and a definitive word should be coming in June, with a start of the playoffs perhaps taking place in July.
“I’m excited,’’ Williams said. “It’s my rookie season. It’s my first year and I haven’t gotten to play in the playoffs yet. It’s going to be a fun time if and when we get the season back.’’
Williams is confident the NBA will bring the games back whenever it is safe and he is eager to rejoin teammates in Boston to start training.
“I feel like we’re all professionals and we definitely trust not only each other but the league to do their best to protect us,’’ Williams said. “I feel like they wouldn’t ask us to come back unless they had every precaution they needed.
“They’re going to keep everything clean and make sure we’re able to do things we can. They’re going to help mitigate the risk as much as possible.’’
Jim Fenton may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JFenton_ent.