Chris Singleton / HoumaToday.com
HOUMA, La. - Like most high school seniors, Justin Williams is facing a big decision about his future.
Williams, a 17-year-old senior baseball standout at Terrebonne High School, is one of the top-ranked senior players in the nation this year. He is being projected by many national scouting agencies to be a first-round selection in the 2013 Major League Baseball draft June 6-8.
Soon he will have to decide whether to play college baseball for LSU or head to the pros.
It's a big decision for Williams, who is in the middle of his senior year at Terrebonne. He said Major League pro scouts and general managers from as many as 25 different teams have flocked to his games this season, but the Houma native hasn't let it distract him.
'You've just got to block it out, but it's always going to be on the back of your mind that someone is watching you,' Williams said. 'You can't get to ahead of yourself. You've got to keep playing. I'm just going to keep working to get better. You can't stop grinding.'
Williams, who signed a baseball scholarship to play at LSU in November, said he is undecided on whether to keep his pledge to the Tigers or become a pro but knows many factors will come into play when it is time to make a decision.
'It just depends on the situation, the round and the team,' Williams said. 'Once the time comes, my parents and I are going to sit down and discuss it and review our options.'
Despite all of the attention, Terrebonne High baseball coach Gus Brown said Williams has handled the situation well and is still the same hard-working player and humble kid he has coached the last four years.
'He's been playing well with all the pressure and everything that's going on,' Brown said. 'You have pro guys who are looking at you that can pretty much determine your future in the next couple of months. We just try to tell him to play the game the way he knows how to play it and to enjoy it.'
Williams, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound prospect, is ranked in the top five of most national high school baseball recruiting lists for 2013. He is the nation's No. 2 overall prospect according to Perfect Game USA, and an ESPN.com recruiting article ranked him as the third-best outfielder in the nation for the class of 2013.
Williams, who plays shortstop for Terrebonne but is projected to play outfield on the next level, gained national exposure this past summer when he competed in the Perfect Game All-American Classic at PETCO Park in San Diego Aug. 12 and at the Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago Aug. 18. He won the home run derby at both nationally televised contests.
Williams' strong swing, speed and fielding skills caught the attention of pro scouts at the national games, so there is a good chance he will get selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft. To prepare for playing in the pros, he has used a wooden bat instead of aluminum during games at Terrebonne this year.
But the slugger said he has always dreamed about played at LSU, one of the top college baseball programs in the country.
'It's a really good program,' Williams said. 'They have a great tradition there. The coaching staff and fans are good. I just like the atmosphere.'
The two people who will help Williams make his decision are his parents Michael Sr. and Paula Williams of Houma.
Both parents said they are gathering as much information as they can to help their son make the best choice.
'It's a lot to process,' Paula said. 'We're going to pray about it. This is something all new to us, and we don't have all the answers. We don't know exactly what's going to happen or where he's going to fall. Whatever decision we make, we're going to make it as a family.'
Michael Sr. said he understands it could be a tough decision to turn down a pro offer, especially if Justin is selected in the first round of the draft, but he has always told his son about the importance of getting a college education and degree.
'Our heart is with LSU,' Michael Sr. said. 'I really want to thank LSU for giving him an opportunity to be a part of their organization. I feel like his education is more important than baseball because when it is over, you're going to need something to fall back on.'
'But God has a plan for him,' his father added. 'If it's meant to be for him to go in the pros, then so be it.'
Michael Sr. said it is a blessing to see how much Justin has accomplished in 17 years of life.
'There has been days where I have to pinch myself, especially after watching him in the All-American games in San Diego and Chicago,' he said. 'It's pleasing to see him doing something that he loves to do. It has been a very good experience for myself as well.'
Sports has always been a big thing in the Williams' household. Michael Sr. was a standout athlete at Terrebonne who went on to play college basketball in the 1980s, and Justin's older brother, Michael Jr., plays baseball at Meridian Community College in Meridian, Miss.
'It's hereditary,' Michael Sr. said. 'I got it from my dad and brothers, and it just trickled on down to him and Mike Jr. as well. I just tell them to work hard every day to enhance your game and stay on top of your game. The harder you work, it's going to be better for you.'
Whatever happens in Justin's future, Paula said his family will be there for him every step of the way, adding her son being in this position 'is a good problem to have.'
'With all that is going on, we've just tried to keep him grounded and just understanding the fact that you've got to stay humble,' Paula said. 'It's a God-given talent that you have. When you put God first, then everything else falls into place. That's what we've been trying to teach him. He's just 17 years old, so I understand it's a lot for him to handle, but I think he's going to be fine.'
As Williams ponders his future, he is trying to help Terrebonne's baseball team shake its losing record this season. The Tigers have seven wins and 15 losses this year, including a 0-6 mark in District 7-5A competition.
But the baseball star, who has a .373 batting average with 19 hits, 15 runs, 10 RBIs, four home runs and seven stolen bases this season, said the Tigers haven't lost their faith.
'We're just down, but we've got to pick it back up,' he said. 'I think we can turn it around. I tell them to keep working and not to get down on themselves. I think we have a shot. We've got to stay positive about it.'
Brown said Williams is a great player but an even better teammate and leader.
'He just does what's best for the team,' Brown said. 'They have him projected as an outfielder on the next level, but he's playing shortstop for us. We think that's the best spot he could be in to help our team win. He's definitely put the team first.'
Terrebonne junior Xavier Washington said the team loves the attention it gets from having a top player in the lineup. While scouts are watching Williams, they are also checking out his teammates.
'It benefits us all,' Washington said. 'He's played across the nation everywhere, and he always tells about so many different things he has seen about the game. It's a good advantage.'
Jalen Williams, who is Justin's cousin and an up-and-coming sophomore star at Terrebonne, said he molds his game after Justin and tries to soak up as much knowledge as possible.
'It's an inspiration,' Jalen Williams said. 'He helps you mentally. He shows you things that some of the coaches don't see. He told me to be patient, relax and not let the game get to you. As long as you know you're doing good and you've done what you can, you'll be all right.'
Even though the wins aren't there, Justin said he is enjoying his senior year of baseball.
'I just love my teammates,' Justin said. 'We might not be the undefeated or the best team in the state, but I like playing with them. I'm going to miss it all when it's over.'