Since arriving in Knoxville almost two years ago, Rick Barnes has been regarded as a straight shooter with the media and Tennessee fans are hoping his expectations for Grant Williams are indicative of the future ahead for the freshman standout.
"He is really just scratching the surface," Barnes said Monday during his press conference as the Vols prep for an NCAA Tournament bubble showdown with in-state rival Vanderbilt on Wednesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Williams has long surpassed any projections for his freshmen year from the recruiting services. He was a Scout three-star prospect coming out of Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Williams showed up to Tennessee with questions about his body being able to succeed in the Southeastern Conference. One area he had no control over and was his height, which was measured at 6-feet-5 when he got on campus. It was quickly apparent once the games started that he was going to be able to overcome his size disadvantage with relative ease.
The other issue with his body was his weight and he immediately went to work on that area of concern.
"He lost 25 pounds," Barnes said. "He has probably lost 5 percent body fat and probably needs to lose 5 percent more body fat."
Barnes thinks Williams continuing to transform his body will allow the freshman to take another step forward in production.
"Grant understands what we are trying to get done," Barnes said. "He still needs to learn to play harder. He is going to put time in the gym."
Williams has shown he is willing to take on the challenge of improving areas of weakness.
After the one-point home loss to Georgia on Feb. 11, Williams blamed himself for the loss for missing a free throw in the final seconds. Williams by far leads the Vols in free-throw attempts with 152 (Robert Hubbs III being the closest with 99). However, Williams is making just 67.1 percent at the charity stripe. After the disappointment of the Georgia loss, the freshman went to work. That work paid off and Williams sank 12 of 13 in the 90-70 victory over Missouri on Saturday.
The 234-pounder has also made it a point to improve his aim from beyond the 3-point arc. He was just 2 of 13 at the start of the season, causing many to question why Barnes gave Williams the green light from downtown. Barnes remained confident in the newcomer and allowed the freedom to continue. That has paid off as Williams has made a whopping 7 of his last 11, raising his overall percentage from 3-point land to 37.5 (9 for 24).
Barnes expects to see Williams' body look more like that of Admiral Schofield by this time next season.
"Admiral has lost 35 pounds, but he came in at 15 percent body body fat and that is where Grant needs to be, and that will change a lot," Barnes said.
What other changes does Barnes expect to see a result?
"He has to learn to guard the perimeter better and rebound better. I hope Grant will get quicker with that," Barnes said.
We have seen small segments of Williams playing small forward recently with Schofield holding down power forward. The Tennessee coach's words seem to suggest this is part of the long-term plan for both players.
"I really think he (Williams) will be a versatile player who plays multiple positions," Barnes said.
Williams is averaging 14.6 points a game in SEC play and has shown the ability to take over games. If that is only scratching the surface the rest of the SEC is put on notice.