Williams To Play Key Role Against Iowa State

Phil Forte could hardly believe his eyes. There was Brian Williams during an Oklahoma State basketball practice in January, handling the ball with ease on Gallagher-Iba Arena's white maple floor. The surprise was warranted. Back in October, the sophomore forward had been ruled out with season-ending wrist surgery.

"All of the sudden, he gets the cast off and we see him in practice dribbling a ball," Forte said. "It's like, wait a second, we might get him back."

A combination of consistent rehab, attention to detail and a quick-healing body resulted in an early return for the player coach Travis Ford calls his best on-ball defender.

"It shocked me," Williams said. "I got a new cast every two-and-a-half weeks, and every time between casts they x-rayed and MRI and did all that. Every two weeks, it made huge jumps. I'm just glad it made those jumps. By the time I was out of my cast, I was almost ready to go. I did what I had to do in rehab, now I'm back."

But it hasn't been easy for Williams. Watching his team find unheralded success without him brought a number of emotions to the table.

"It was bittersweet to be honest with you," Williams said. "Because I wanted nothing more than for us to win, and that's what we're doing right now. But I wanted to be a part of it also. I was a spectator for the first half of the season.

After sitting out the majority of the season, Williams has been an integral part in a number of Cowboy victories down the stretch – on both offense and defense. Against West Virginia, he scored 13 points to help close the gap left by Marcus Smart, who sat much of the first half with foul trouble. At home against Texas on Saturday he recorded a season-high 15 minutes, adding 9 points.

But that impact came from a spot unfamiliar to Williams – off the bench. It's the first time he's played the definitive sixth-man role in his basketball career.

"I've just got to get in where I fit in right now," Williams said. "It is my team, but it's not my team, because guys got established before I came back. So I've just got to come in, find a role, and stick to it."

Following the Texas game, Williams said his health was at "60 or 70 percent." That progress couldn't have come at a better time, as the Cowboys face two crucial tests before entering the Big 12 Tournament. Games that will ultimately decide which seed OSU will have in Kansas City.

First up: Iowa State in Ames. A team that shoots 37.2 percent from the 3-point line with nearly 10 made per game. And the Cyclones have won 15 of their last 16 at Hilton Coliseum.

"They shoot the rock, so I feel like I'll be needed a lot this game," Williams said.

Said Ford: "I think we have a much better Brian Williams right now, which really helps against Iowa State … They play so many guys that are very similar and Brian can guard pretty much any position."

Williams understands there's room for improvement, as the feel of the game slowly comes back every time he suits up. But that doesn't place a limit on his importance moving forward. Don't forget that behind Markel Brown, Williams is one of the Cowboys' most veteran leaders.

A fact not lost on Forte.

"It's great knowing we can bring him off the bench and there's not a drop off," Forte said. "If anything, we get better. That's big. He just brings so much to the team."

Said Williams: "We still have a chance (to win the regular season Big 12 title). We still need a lot of things to go right for us to win it. And we still have this Big 12 Tourney, and of course we're still trying to win that. We've got some ball left before the NCAA Tourney."

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UP NEXT: Iowa State
The Cowboys travel to Ames to face the Cyclones (19-10, 9-7) at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday / TV: ESPNU / RADIO: KSPI 93.7 FM


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