Hoping To Hold Down The Paint

Ohio State welcomes in a five-man recruiting class this summer, and the biggest freshman in the group is the 6-10, 220-pound Amir Williams. A likely post compliment to Jared Sullinger, the future Buckeye is working to combine his effort and talent for when he gets to college.

With his star player a few weeks shy of starting his collegiate career, Fred Massey went to the tape to provide a little inspiration.

The subject in question was Amir Williams, a four-star center prospect from Beverly Hills (Mich.) Detroit Country Day who signed a national letter-of-intent in November with Ohio State. After having worked with Williams for the past four years as the team's post coach, Massey wanted to remind the future Buckeye what it will take to be successful at the next level.

Simply put: his size alone would no longer get the job done.

"I would give him some game film of him in his sophomore year to say, ‘This guy as a senior is better skilled but the guy that's a sophomore was more hungry. Now if you can find that hunger with this skilled guy, (you'll) be OK," Massey told BuckeyeSports.com.

Now listed at 6-10, 220 pounds by OSU, Williams entered high school already measuring 6-8. Players his size or greater were a rarity during high school basketball season, meaning the center could get away without exerting maximum effort on most nights.

The final result as a senior was still impressive. Williams averaged 18.1 points, 13.6 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game. Massey said his main point was not so much to cast a negative light on the season but to further emphasize what will come next.

That message apparently got across to the prep senior.

"That's one of the key things that he mentioned," Williams said. "I did slack off a little bit or wasn't playing as hard. That's one thing he pointed out was that I need to continue to work hard no matter who you're playing against or what team you're playing against, go out and give your best effort every game."

Finding players his size to battle with will not be a challenge when he arrives in Columbus. Reigning national freshman of the year Jared Sullinger has announced his return for his sophomore season, and the two could find themselves teaming up in the paint.

On his final call-in show following a season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16, head coach Thad Matta said he anticipates being able to use the 6-9, 280-pound Sullinger as a power forward with Williams holding down the paint.

Detroit County Day head coach Kurt Keener said the thought of Williams playing for Matta was an exciting one whether or not Sullinger was still in uniform.

"He thought that if Jared stayed he was compatible and he could play with him," the coach said. "Amir could do some of those things that (Dallas Lauderdale) did. I thought it would be advantageous for him to play at least a year with Jared because Jared will command double teams and it will allow Amir to make the transition to the college game without the pressure of having to produce."

As a senior, Lauderdale averaged just 4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds while playing second fiddle to Sullinger. Although Keener first praised Williams' rebounding and shot-blocking capabilities, he said the future Buckeye has the potential to be more of an offensive threat than Lauderdale for two reasons.

First, he has solid footwork. Second, he possesses soft hands.

"I think he's got a great work ethic so as he's being taught (new) things he will pick them up," the coach said. "I think having watched Ohio State play a lot this year and watching Sullinger, I could see Amir being compatible with him. I'm very optimistic that within a year or two he certainly can be a low-post presence in all facts of the game."

His go-to offensive move, both coaches agreed, is a jump hook that can be executed with either hand.

Williams said he has no desire to play away from the basket. His desire to be a center flew in the face of what some potential schools envisioned for his future.

"That's the main position I've been playing for my whole life," he said. "I feel more comfortable at the (center spot). It's just something I'm used to playing."

Now he will need to become comfortable playing the position at a higher level. Given the way Matta coaches, Massey said that should not be a problem.

"When he gets full confidence (he'll be good), and that's the good thing about going to Ohio State and being with Thad," the coach said. "I think Thad encourages his players to be confident and to play their games. As soon as Amir grows into that you'll see a very good post player down in Columbus."

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