Williams Shapes Up
By Rob Ogden
Amir Williams' improved play has the whole team benefitting, but to get to this point, the entire team first had to suffer.
Through eight games this season, the center is averaging 10.5 points per game and 6.9 rebounds.
He has already scored in double figures five times this year after doing it only once all of last season, when he averaged 3.5 points per game as a starter for much of the year.
The biggest difference, he said, is conditioning.
"I'm in a lot better shape than I was last season," Williams said. "I'm playing more minutes than I was last year and I'm not as tired as I was last year. Last year, in the first four, six minutes of the game I would feel a little winded and coach would have to take me out.
"I knew what was at stake for me this season, so I made it a point of emphasis to get myself in better shape."
Photo by Jim Davidson
Getting Williams in shape wasn't just a point of emphasis for Williams, but was for coach Thad Matta, as well.
Just ask Lenzelle Smith Jr, or anyone else on the team for that matter.
"During the summer we had to run a mile every week until Amir made his time," Smith said. "So everybody inside that locker room might have had something to do with that. We just were tired of running and it was all up to him so we did everything we could. We tried intimidation, whatever we could. Finally he made his time so something worked."
"Intimidation doesn't work on me," the 6-foot-11 Williams retorted. "Come on."
The time Williams was chasing was six minutes flat. As the season neared, he finally reached it.
"What did it take, all summer long?" Williams joked.
"Almost all summer," Smith replied.
"I did it on purpose so they could get in better shape," Williams said with a smile.
"We did a little more conditioning in the fall, and that's when my time really came around. It was almost the whole summer it took me to make that mile time. It was worth it, though."
Williams is averaging 24 minutes per game, compared to 16.5 a year ago, and has set new career highs in points (18) and rebounds (16) this season. The Buckeyes host Bryant Wednesday night inside Value City Arena.
Williams came into Ohio State as a McDonalds High School All-American, but didn't live up to that billing his first two years on campus.
He said he knew he had to improve.
"I knew this was gonna be a big season for me," Williams said. "I know I could have played better last season and it just so happens that I didn't. I just focused on this season and tried to get better. I tried to do everything I could for the team because we want to win a national championship. That's our goal. I knew if i pushed myself they would push themselves too."
Throughout the tribulations, Matta has remained patient with Williams, who the Buckeyes now must rely on heavily.
Patience isn't always the easiest attribute for a coach to possess, especially when immediate stars at the position such as Greg Oden and Jared Sullinger have walked through the door, but Matta said he never gave up on Williams.
"I saw promise, I saw hope," Matta said. "I saw things that I knew if he could do consistently, he could be a very good basketball player for us. I think that's what we're seeing now. He's seeing the fruits of his labor."
Along with Williams' conditioning, his maturity has vastly improved as well, Matta said.
"He has a lot better understanding of things," he said. "He's doing a lot of things that people don't see. He's altering shots a lot. And I don't think he's done. I don't want to sit here and pat him on the back because I think he can play much better for us."
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