Less is more

Standing flat-footed after catching a pass under the basket, one Tennessee player went straight up and slammed home an emphatic dunk during Monday's practice.

Actually, that happened a dozen times during the workout. But this particular dunk was by Brian Williams, the Vols' 6-foot-10 junior center. The Brooklyn product arrived overweight at UT three years ago and has never been known for his elevation. He showed some hops on Monday's dunk, however, which is a testament to his new, slimmed-down frame.

So, how much weight has he lost?

"Not enough," he replied, frowning.

Williams said he weighs 276 pounds. He's at least 15 pounders lighter than he was last year, however, when he was listed at 267. And he says more pounds will be coming off in the weeks to come.

"I'm on the verge of losing 10 more," he said.

With fewer pounds to carry around, Williams' agility and stamina are noticeably better than a year ago.

"I'm a lot quicker," he said. "I'm able to run faster and stay in the game longer now that I've lost this weight. It's definitely showing on the court when I'm running 55 (full-court press) and running the break. This summer I worked the hardest I did since I've been here, and it's paying off."

Better mobility around the basket means better shots, which helps explain why Williams is hitting 57.7 percent of his field goal tries (15 of 26) this season. He's also been more active on the boards, grabbing 12 of his 23 total rebounds off the offensive glass. Thanks to the improved leaping ability, he has a team-high 6 blocks. And the improved stamina enabled him to play 22 minutes in relief of foul-plagued Wayne Chism vs. College of Charleston last Friday night, finishing with 11 points and 7 rebounds.

"The stamina helps me get open," Williams explained. "I'm able to get to spots quicker, get through screens quicker because I've got my air. And when I get the ball I can finish stronger."

Head coach Bruce Pearl conceded that the new-look Williams has improved his mobility.

"It's better," the coach said following Monday's workout. "Brian practiced well today but I expect Brian to play well. I expect him to be like Cameron (Tatum) was - a sixth starter. I want to see his play continue to improve and continue to be more consistent. I want him to expect more from himself."

Throughout his career Williams has shown a tendency to dominate at times and disappear at other times. Now that he no longer has stamina issues those vanishing acts should cease. Pearl sees improvement in that area but wants to see more.

"He needs to continue to physically and mentally assert himself," the coach said. "I'm pleased but it's what my expectation is."


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