Williams can be 'big' help for UT

Thanks to All-American Chris Lofton, defensive dynamo JaJuan Smith and rambunctious rookie Ramar Smith, the University of Tennessee backcourt ranked with the finest in college basketball during the 2006-07 season.

The guard play was so good, in fact, that the Vols may have been one more "big" from reaching the NCAA title game. That's where Brian Williams comes in. The November signee is big with a capital B ... as in 6-9 and 300 pounds.

Although he is labeled "a project" by some analysts, Williams has the raw tools to be an immediate contributor for the 2007-08 Vols. No one knows this better than rising sophomore Josh Tabb, who was a teammate of Williams at Cincinnati's Harmony Christian prep school in 2005-06.

"He's a real nice player, a real nice kid," Tabb said. "He's a big body, and I think we'll be able to use him next year. He could've helped us out a little bit (in 2006-07). That's not taking anything away from Duke Crews and Wayne Chism. But Brian Williams is a nice player."

Although he's similar in size to LSU's Glen Davis, Williams is nowhere near as polished. He can set a mean screen, though.

"When I was guarding people in prep school practice, if he'd come out and set a screen, there was no way you were getting around that screen," Tabb recalled, grinning sheepishly. "His body is just so big. When he rolls into you, there's nothing you can do about it. I think he's going to be a really good fit in this program."

That's the key to the whole equation, of course. Big men are easy to find. Big men with the agility and stamina to play Bruce Pearl's up-tempo brand of basketball are not so easy to find. Can Williams maintain Tennessee's pace?

"He's working on that," Tabb said. "He says he's working out and losing weight. He's dropped 20 or 30 pounds."

Williams had better be in shape when he reports to Tennessee for the beginning of preseason drills. If not, he's in for a real shock. Hoping to prevent this, Tabb has been warning his ex-teammate about how hard the Vols work on strength and conditioning.

So. what was Williams' reaction?

"He said, ‘Man, you do all this? This is a lot!'" Tabb said. "I told him to lose weight because the pace here is so up and down and so fast. We ran a lot in prep school but it wasn't nothing like this."


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