Williams ready to 'rip and run'

Kenny Williams could have played tight end in college. And he almost did. He signed with the Auburn Tigers but never made it to campus on the plains.

Now, in his first year as an Ole Miss basketball player after a couple of years in junior college, Williams feels the basketball court is where he belongs, although he often thinks about what it might be like to have played Division I-A football.

"I went to junior college in California out of high school, but I didn't want to play junior college football," the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Miami, Fla., native said. "My mindset was to go back home to go to junior college in Florida (which he did after a semester in California). There is no football in junior college in Florida, so I decided to play basketball. Success came for me in basketball, but I sometimes think about what it would have been like to still be playing football."

Since he signed with Ole Miss back in the spring to play hoops, Williams has been focused on getting ready for the upcoming season.

"It's a huge adjustment coming from junior college to a powerful conference like the SEC," said Williams, whose only experience so far in that regard has been with and against the Rebels. "You have to get used to the competition. Playing against people on our own team has been a challenge. So I can't imagine what I'm up against in a real game situation in the SEC. I'm just working hard to try to get ready for that."

Williams is a powerful player. Tight ends usually are. When they choose to play basketball, they are likely centers or power forwards. In Williams' case, let's just call him a front-line player.

Now, with junior Dwayne Curtis out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his foot, the roles that newcomer Williams and junior Jermey Parnell will play in the middle has magnified.

"With D.C. out, it makes our job even more important," said Williams, who played at St. Petersburg (Fla.) Community College and was a two-time first-team All-Suncoast Conference selection. "We have to take up a lot of slack. When D.C. gets back, we'll be a better team. He's experienced, and he knows what it's like to play in the SEC."

Williams says in his short time here that he's already learned a lot from the 6-foot-8, 275-pound Curtis.

"Just him being on the court is a learning process for me," said Williams, who led the Titans to the Suncoast Conference Championship in both his juco seasons, and as a sophomore posted 17.6 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots per game. "As I said, he's been through all this, and I can talk to him and learn from him, ask him questions. He's still out here with us, but it's not like having him on the court."

Williams, who averaged 15.1 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks as a senior at American Senior High School in Miami, Fla., says he feels his athleticism will help him inside in the world of bigtime college basketball.

"I believe I bring quickness to the team, being able to really run up and down the court in this system," said Williams, who caught 20 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns on the gridiron as a senior in high school. "I believe in this system, I can help get things done. This system is rip and run, up and down the court. I really enjoy that and more people can get involved. I get the rebound (on defense), then that ball's gotta go and we run down the court fast. We love it."

First-year Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy says Williams should help this team immediately.

"We knew when we signed Kenny that he was two years older, two years stronger, and had valuable experience at the junior college level," Kennedy said. "We felt he would come in and have an impact for us early. He certainly has not disappointed us to this point. He's a kid that understands this is a great opportunity for him. Physically he has made the transition quickly. Mentally and understanding the demands on him and the pace of the game at this level are things he's still working on. But physically he's been able to compete from day one."

Williams, who says his body fat is down but his weight remains the same as when he arrived in Oxford this summer, said he believes his strength and build will help the team.

"Just being a post presence in there, both on offense and defense, scoring and rebounding, I feel I can matchup with players in the SEC," he said. "Like I said, I don't really know what to compare to yet, but I know that's coming soon. Condition-wise I'm the best I've ever been."

Williams and his teammates will have two opportunities to put their product on the floor within the next week in exhibition games – Friday at 7 p.m. when they host North Alabama and Monday at 7 p.m. when Delta State also comes to Tad Smith Coliseum.

"I believe I could have excelled in football, but I'm enjoying basketball," Williams said. "I'm just happy with the opportunity to play college basketball. Everything has worked out for a reason and I believe worked out for the best."

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