Justin Williams to step up his Game

With the health of Jeremiah Massey in question heading into Saturday's Big 12 Conference opener at the University of Nebraska, taking a greater role in the success of the Wildcats will be Justin Williams.

A 6-foot-10, 245-pound senior, the Hamburg, Ark., native's minutes, whether starting or in reserve, are sure to go up with Massey less than 100 percent with his right ankle sprain leaving him ''day-to-day,'' in the words of coach Jim Wooldridge.

Williams has two starts to his credit, with the latest coming in Monday's 80-58 victory over Central Missouri State when he scored his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while playing 21 minutes, a season-high.

After scoring a total of 12 points in K-State's first six games, Williams has had games of 7, 13, 8, 6 and 10 points in the last five games. In those outings, he has also hit nearly 60 percent from the field on a variety of 12-foot jumpers to jam-dunks. He netted a career high of 13 points against Northern Illinois.

''I'm playing pretty good, but know I can be better,'' Williams said. ''I have a lot of work to do, but right now I'm playing pretty decent.''

While also averaging just over four rebounds per game, Williams says, ''Defense and energy'' is what he first tries to take to the floor.

''Energy leads to rebounds and defense," he said. "I don't look at myself as an offensive threat, but I score when I can.''

''One thing you can count on with Justin is that he plays hard,'' said Wooldridge. ''He plays with energy and gives us a low-post presence coming off the bench. I know he was really frustrated early, but he kept working and kept coming back, and now is playing better basketball.''

Part of his improved play has been due to healthier knees, which plagued him throughout his junior season after transferring from Kankakee Community College.

He started in four games last year averaging 4.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. This year, he has the two starts and is averaging 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

''As long as I'm playing, coming off the bench is fine,'' Williams said of his primary role as a reserve. ''Who wouldn't want to start, but I'm fine with this as long as I'm seeing playing time.''

Depending on the status of Massey, Williams, plus 6-11 sophomore Tyler Hughes, will become pivotal to the Wildcats' early Big 12 Conference play.

"They have to provide a stable low-post defense," Wooldridge said. "They need to play to their size. They have good size, and they need to play to that size."

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