Last week we listened to Jermey Parnell (Sept. 18 story on this site) as he summed up his thoughts on the ongoing preseason of Ole Miss basketball. His veteran teammates down in the paint now sound off.
A year ago at this time, Williams was fairly quiet, a bit shy about speaking out, which was understandable. He'd just arrived from junior college. The Floridian was learning about all things Ole Miss and D-I basketball.
This time around, after a successful first season when he became a popular player, especially among students, Williams seems much at ease and very comfortable in his northern Mississippi surroundings.
"I've got a year under my belt. I know what to expect," the Miami (American Senior HS) and St. Petersburg CC product said. "I know what the competition is all about in the SEC. I just want to lead. With the new guys coming in, there's no reason we shouldn't be a contender in the SEC."
He will indeed be a leader of this team. We can already see that. He's worked hard to develop his skills, not only on and off the court but as a vocal senior member of a rising basketball program.
"We're trying to get into shape as a frontcourt," said Williams, who averaged 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds a contest last year during the 21-13 NIT and SEC West title season. "To do that we have to get up and down the court. We're trying to make a complete reversal from the three senior guards we had last year and for us frontcourt seniors to produce."
That isn't easy, he says, not a snap of the finger change for a team that was so guard-oriented last season.
"It's a big transition," said the 6-foot-8, 240-pounder. "Coach brought in a recruiting class just like he wants. He's really revolving this team around the style he wants. It's either be able to play in this system or we don't play."
Williams wants to play and will. He's doing what it takes.
"It's exciting," he said. "We've got young guards who are ready to lead, too. Us front guys being the older guys, we lead by example. For this team to be successful, we all have to put in the work. We will lead, but we're all in this together."
Curtis is going through what he went through last preseason, only this time a broken bone in his foot occurred in late August and not mid-October.
The 6-8, 280, senior from Chicago by way of Auburn says he's found another way to stay in shape while his foot heals.
"Swimming," he said of his conditioning workouts while not being able to run. "Lots of swimming at the Turner Center. I am out there six days a week, sometimes two or three times a day."
There's that commitment again. Curtis, like Williams and Parnell, desperately wants an NCAA Tournament on his resume' by season's end.
"It's my last year to be on this court, my last time to play on the college level, so I'm definitely excited about it. The expectations are high and there's a lot of excitement," said Curtis, who averaged 12.2 points and 8.3 rebounds in 2006-07, the top returnee in both categories. "The new guys bring us some energy. You can tell they're going to be good players here."
But it's the old guys who have to lead, and Curtis says they are doing just that.
"Definitely we have to be leaders," he said. "We have to lead these new players and show them what it's all about."
Curtis said he made a lot of improvement under Kennedy and staff last season.
"Just learning a different style of play with everything moving at a faster pace," he said. "Learning all about how AK wants it. I like it, pushing the ball up the floor, and how much better it is for me to have that experience from last year. I know what to expect."
Back in late August, he slipped on his way into his residence during a rain and injured his foot. He continued to play on it for a while, but the damage was done and he could not go.
"It's definitely frustrating going from year to year and being hurt," he said. "I'd like to be able to go a year without being hurt. At least it happened earlier this year."
More men's hoops stories in the days ahead as we move toward "official" preseason practice next month.
Williams, Curtis talk preseason hoops
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