CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Kenny Williams's struggles from outside the arc during his freshman year forced him to focus on improving his defensive game.
In limited minutes last season, Williams shot 1-for-13 from three-point range and found most of his playing time for his defensive fortitude, which included key minutes in the ACC Tournament.
For the sophomore, shooting is both a mental and skill-based game, but defense is a decision. He found that out in his first season in Chapel Hill.
“Defense is really about heart and how hard you want to play, so it’s always there and you always have it,” Williams said. “It’s just a matter of playing against these guys forced it to come out.”
The 6-foot-4 wing says that coming to UNC required him to get serious about his defense in a way that he never had to before.
“In high school it was a little bit easier, you could get away with some mistakes,” he said. “Here you really have to pay attention to the little details and you have to take more pride in it and make sure you do the best you can on your man and in help.”
Williams hasn't given up on his shot, though. Far from it. In fact, he spent the summer fine tuning his form - with help from assistant coach Hubert Davis - to ensure that his struggles from last year wouldn’t roll over into his sophomore season.
“I wanted to key in on my mechanics on my jumpshot and improve that and get that to where it was better and easier and I was shooting it the same way every time, basically,” he said. “Those were the key things I was working on and I think it’s transferred onto the court.”
Outside of his physical game, Williams has grown mentally over the summer. The biggest thing for him: understanding where he fits in on the team now that he’s a year older and will have a bigger role.
“You come in freshman year and nobody knows what you can do,” he said. “It was hard knowing my role and figuring out what to do and when to do it. Now I’m more established with myself and knowing what to do and when to do it. It’s definitely easier on my confidence. I think this summer has built up my confidence immensely just playing pickup with the guys and getting feedback from them on how I’ve been playing.”
Williams is still a work in progress, but with the leaps he made this summer - and the larger opportunity for playing time in 2016-17 - expect his production to increase in his second year in Chapel Hill.