After a tumultuous freshman season at Texas, Shawn Williams knew it was time for a change of scenery and transferred to SMU in January of 2010. A hoops icon in Dallas, Williams helped lead Duncanville to a 39-0 record and a state championship as a sophomore and knew he wanted to come back home.
"When I left Texas, I was just trying to find a new home so why not my old home," Williams said. "It felt great to come back to Dallas. It means a lot to me because I grew up here, and I take a lot of pride in it."
But it was far from a match made in heaven. Williams struggled in Matt Doherty's Princeton offense and averaged just 5.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, hardly living up to the billing that came along with being a Big 12 transfer.
Now Doherty is gone and Williams has a new opportunity with Larry Brown. Williams says Brown's offensive philosophy is different and will help utilize his athleticism but most importantly, his confidence has grown under the Hall of Fame coach.
"The difference between Coach Doherty and Coach Brown is Coach Brown is focused on winning a national championship," Williams said. "It feels good that he believes in us like that. Coach Brown cares about you. We respect him. He has a rule that all players need to meet with him everyday in his office. Most of the time its not even about basketball, it's about life and how school is going. It really feels great."
With the buoyancy provided by Brown, Williams can focus on what he does best- dominate on the hardwood. But it's not all fun and games. The 6-foot-7, 225-pounder strived through an intense offseason highlighted by a two-week boot camp.
"The offseason went really well. Coach Brown laid down the basics, and we improved a lot as a team," Williams said. "I came in and worked every day. The first couple of days, it was hard to get adjusted in the morning. We did so many drills but after you get through it, you can look back on it and say I'm still standing. It really brought us together as a team."
Like teammate Jalen Jones, Williams will be alternating between the three and four positions and expects his offensive numbers to improve tremendously. But he also believes he has progressed as a defensive force.
"It's a defense first team. It's something that we really emphasize," Williams said. "We want to keep our man in front of us so we do a lot of shell drills and one-on-one drills.
"Right now I'm playing a little mix of the three and the four. Coach Brown is telling me shoot the ball when I'm open, rebound, look for others and most importantly be a vocal leader. I'm trying to do more so I can get these guys going. I think I've gotten physically stronger, which helped me out defensively."
While Brown has made a prodigious impact in the development of young talent on this team, Williams says he's not the only who deserves credit.
"Coach Jank is another great coach that's been at a lot of big time schools. I've known Coach Ulric since seventh grade and Coach Howard is great," Williams said. "They've been so helpful, but you can't forget about George Lynch and Eric Snow. They played in the league for over 10 years so when they say something you listen to them. They've been great additions."
With NCAA tournament aspirations, Williams says it's going to take a lot of hard work to accomplish their lofty goals but feels his team has the talent and potential to win Conference USA and make the big dance.
"At Texas, we were already established but here, we are just getting started. I always tell people the talent level is not a big difference from the Big 12 to SMU," Williams said. "The biggest difference is probably having multiple 7-footers, but the talent level is not that big of difference. I think we will be a lot better this year especially in our mentality."
Last season, SMU finished 13-19 overall and 4-12 in conference play. The last time the Mustangs won a tournament game was back in 1988 when Brown led Kansas to a national championship. But that doesn't faze Williams, who believes Brown will turn around the program sooner rather than later.
"The coaches came in here and said they wanted to change the culture. I'm a Cowboys fan and they always find a way to lose. We don't want that here," Williams said. "Coach Brown is changing that. Those games that were close last year that we lost, we will win this year. The sky is the limit for us. We are not going to fail this year."
Hoops Player Profile Series: Shawn Williams
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