Bloomington – Nick Williams knows he's going to have to play big this season.
On a roster that will be virtually devoid of any real size this season, the 6'4", 212-pound Williams suddenly stands out when IU Coach Tom Crean is looking for someone to play in the paint. While Williams might not have the ideal height to tangle with Big Ten post players, he does have experience around the basket and a physical style that makes him as good of an option as IU has to turn to.
During a standout high school career at LeFlore H.S. in Mobile, Ala., Williams spent most of his time playing the power forward position. He made the move to the perimeter before the start of his senior season to ready himself for his college career, but he fully expects that he and fellow freshman Malik Story will spend their share of time defending bigger players this season.
"We're both big and physical, and our physicality is a great aspect we bring to this team," Williams said Wednesday. "I think we should be okay with me and Malik playing the ‘4' at times."
It's all a part of Tom Crean trying to figure out a way to make his first Indiana team competitive this season despite a lack of height and a roster that lacks nearly any Division I experience. Crean admits that will be a challenge, but he also says it's up to the staff to figure out ways to plug in players like Williams to give them an opportunity at some degree of success this season.
"We have to find a way to give these guys a chance to be in the games, to compete," Crean said. "That doesn't mean we're just going to come out and play conventional, night after night. We're going to have to have some different things in our bag to go against some of these teams."
Williams figures to be one of the keys to that happening. Crean admitted earlier in the summer that he's going to have to watch the number of minutes that Williams logs because there will be a temptation to leave him out on the court for nearly 40 minutes per night.
But if Williams does wind up logging the most minutes of any player on the IU roster, he is now better prepared to handle that after spending the summer working out with IU Strength and Conditioning Coach Jeff Watkinson. Williams arrived at IU for the first summer session weighing 227 pounds, but he's shed 15 and says he notices a significant difference.
"It's been good because I can see the transformation in my game," Williams said. "I jump higher now, I run at a good speed over a long period of time. I can see dramatic changes in my game."
Williams isn't the only player whose made significant strides physically during the summer. Tom Pritchard has also dropped 10-15 pounds and is showing off some athleticism that he didn't a year ago as a senior in high school. Guard Verdell Jones has spent long hours in the weight room, and he is now up to 177 pounds with a goal of getting up to 180 or 185 by the time the season arrives.
Time will tell whether or not those off-season changes are enough to make IU a surprise team this season. Expectations are understandably low for this year's squad, and Williams says the team is trying to focus on a very realistic goal to judge its progress.
"Our goal is to get better every day in practice," Williams said. "If getting better brings wins, we'll take it. But just getting better every day and listening to coach and striving for excellence."
Williams Will Need to Stand Tall
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