Williams Working Toward Consistency

Williams Working Toward Consistency

Watching West Virginia freshman Devin Williams has been like watching two completely different players at times this season.

Just 12 games into his college basketball career at WVU, Williams has quickly learned how to deal with the ups and downs that come at this level.

Take, for instance, his most recent stretch of games. Heading into Sunday's game against Purdue, Williams had arguably his two worst games of the year in back-to-back contests against Gonzaga and Marshall. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native made just 3-of-13 shots for seven points in the four-point loss to the Bulldogs and played a season-low 16 minutes against the Herd, with all four of his points coming from the free throw line.

Tough performances like that are tough to overcome for a lot of freshmen when they're trying to get acclimated with their new surroundings early in the season.

"If you would have asked me that a few games ago, I would have been down. There have been times when I was sulking," Williams said. "But I've been here before, that's why I say live and learn.

"It's always about the next play."

And when he got the chance to take the floor again on Sunday, he made the most out of that chance - finishing with his best game as a Mountaineer.

With his 20-point, 12-rebound performance against the Boilermakers, Williams earned his fourth double-double. Only four players in school history have had more double-doubles in their freshman campaigns.

So what was the difference? Williams' quick turnaround all came down to doing the things he's been taught to do.

"I'm trying to be a gym rat and I'm finding my focus and my rhythm," Williams said. "When I'm really tired and beat up from a long day of practice, I still go and try to get up a few shots after.

"It was from staying in the gym and staying level headed. I had a good game, but I don't feel good. It's just hard."

That extra work has continued to pay off as the season has gone on. Through West Virginia's first 10 games of the season, Williams was shooting just 45 percent from the free throw line.

After going 8-of-9 from the line against Purdue, he's made 12 of his last 15 attempts from the charity stripe.

"Devin cares. He's struggled at the foul line, so he's come in and spent a ton of time on it," said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins. "He'll continue to get better. He listens. He tries to do what you ask him to do.

"Devin is a good kid who really wants to be good. You think different guys have turned a corner, they play pretty good for three or four games and all of a sudden they don't play good. Generally, it's because they didn't put in any extra time."

So far in his career, Williams has shown that he's willing to put in the extra work necessary to make sure that performances like the one he had against Purdue - and ones he's had earlier in the season - continue to happen.

He hasn't even started to scratch the surface of how good he can be.

Williams is more ready physically than most other players who have come to WVU as freshmen in recent years, especially among the guys who play in the post, and once everything clicks a little more and he finds that consistency that he is working toward, he could grow into one of the Big 12's elite post players.

He's learned valuable lessons along the way, figuring out what he needs to do in order to reach the level he wants to be at.

"You have to adjust," Williams said. "When the game comes and you have this player who is doing something different (than what he saw on scouting reports) or I catch it in the post and somebody comes to double team you, that's when it's about adjusting to the game. You have to play off your teammates more and just be patient."

As Huggins and the coaching staff are trying to get Williams a little more comfortable with playing as a back-to-the-basket presence on the low post offensively, the 6-foot-9, 255-pound forward has shown his versatility and ability to stretch a defense out and hit 15-foot jumpers on the baseline fairly consistently.

With that wrinkle in his game, mixed with his off-the-charts rebounding ability, Williams can really take a big step forward if he can score with his back to the basket - especially if he keeps shooting it well from the foul line.

He's hopeful that with his hard work he can become more of a household name in college basketball and help WVU get back on the winning track. For now, he's just going to keep working hard.

"You turn on the TV and you see freshmen every day. I just want to show what I can do and what I'm capable of," Williams said. "I have to keep working. I just have to keep working and build off this.

"It was because I was consistent in the gym, just working in practice ... I think it paid off, so I'm not going to go away from it."

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