Season in Review: D.J. Williams

Illini Inquirer basketball analyst Sean Harrington breaks down D.J. Williams' freshman season and sets expectations for his sophomore season

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Season in Review

Key Stats: 2.1 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.2 steals, 40.0 FG%, 57.9 FT%, 16.7 3FG%

D.J. Williams had a pretty quiet freshman season overall. Though, he did have a promising four-game stretch in early February during which he averaged 7.0 ppg and shot 11-for-19 from the floor. During those games, Williams showed flashes of what he can become -- a player capable of playing multiple positions on the floor. In order to play multiple positions, Williams must be able to handle to ball and make good decisions. With only 10 assists to 22 turnovers this season, Williams' decision-making must improve. Williams does have the ability to play above the rim and give the Illini an athletic look. He had the fifth most offensive rebounds on the team while playing only the 11th most minutes on the team. His offensive rebound percentage trailed only bigs Mike Thorne and Michael Finke. This is an area that he could really give the Illini a boost.  

Offseason Focus

The second season is always the year players make the biggest jump physically  It will be very important for Williams to get into the weight room and take care of his body by eating right to transform his body and gain some "good" weight, i.e. muscle. Added strength will allow him to compete against Big Ten opponents and give the Illini a more athletic and physical look. 

Unlike a majority of his teammates, Williams has the versatility to play many positions. But that means he has a lot of areas to focus on. That may seem overwhelming for a young player, so he needs to simplify the process so he can see big improvements in just a few areas.  

First, he must focus on his skills at the '4' position. Williams got a lot of good looks from setting ball screens and popping. He must work on popping to the baseline and shooting jumpers from both sides of the floor. From the same drill, he needs to pop baseline and work on driving right and left from both sides of the floor. He had some success going baseline on the drive this year.  

Next, he needs to work on his guard skills. This will include doing 15-20 minutes of ball handling every day with two-ball dribbling drills as well as dribble moves on the go. To improve his scoring ability, Williams needs to work on coming off ball screens and working on pull up jumpers going right and left.  He also should work on the mid-range jumper a lot this offseason. Every day, Williams should do the "Ray Allen Drill." Start at about five feet from the rim on the baseline, and make three in a row from that spot. Then move back about three feet and make three in a row again. Continue to move back five total times with the three-point line being the final spot. Any time you miss, you have to start all over from the first spot. Eventually, the drill is done from five spots on the floor so you move around the entire court. This will really improve his form and extend his range.  

2016-17 Expectations

Williams could be a very important part of this team next year. Playing multiple positions could help Williams get closer to 15-20 minutes per game. If he gets those minutes, he could be a 6.0 ppg and 4.0 rpg player. Williams must improve his shooting to be a 45-50 percent shooter from the floor. Getting to the rim for high percentage shots and form shooting in the offseason will improve this number from last year.  As a more seasoned sophomore, his assist-to-turnover ratio should hover around 1.0 this year. Williams needs to continue to attack the offensive glass and be that athletic player that gets 1-2 offensive rebounds per game. The Illini have few other players with his blend of versatility, length and athleticism. He just must improve his skill set, strength, efficiency and consistency.

Sean Harrington is the basketball analyst for IlliniInquirer.com and also serves as a color analyst for ESPN. He played for four NCAA Tournament teams at Illinois, from 1999-2002. He also served on coaching staffs for Rick Majerus, Bill Self, Rob Judson and Bruce Weber. Follow him on Twitter @smharrington24.


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