MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For its perimeter-oriented attack to find more open looks, West Virginia needs the threat of a low-post scorer. And presumably that was to be the function of freshman Devin Williams, only Williams hasn’t been functioning of late.
During the most recent five-game stretch, the 6-foot-8 forward has made only 12-of-40 shots from the floor (30 percent) and averaged just 6.2 points in 22 minutes. In last Saturday’s 74-64 win over Marshall, Williams was held without a field goal for the first time in his brief college career and played a season-low 16 minutes.
He committed three turnovers and was flummoxed by Marshall’s sagging double-teams, a frustrating lesson in his adjustment to life as a low-post player. Despite being a big-bodied prospect, Williams was primarily a face-up player at Withrow High in Cincinnati and the same held true last season at Montverde (Fla.) Academy, where 7-foot Kentucky signee Dakari Johnson was the main threat in the paint.
“I don’t think Devin’s ever been a back-to-the-basket guy,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said Friday. “He was more of a guy who stepped out and shot 12- to 15-footers.”
Yet with WVU thin on the frontline, the still-learning Williams remains the only real option down low. Most of Kevin Noreen’s offense comes from garbage buckets, Brandon Watkins is a screen-and-roll guy, and Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton remain in academic purgatory.
“We still have to be able to score close,” Huggins said. “I think Iowa State is a great example of people who shoot 3s and shoot 3s very well. But the thing people miss s that Georges Niang is really good in the post, and he gets a lot of one-on-one coverage down there because they spread you out so much. Without him in the post, that perimeter stuff’s not nearly as good.”
On the heels of Williams’ struggles against Marshall, teammates have encouraged him to be more decisive with the ball before the help defense arrives.
“We just tell him once he catches it, go for it,” said guard Terry Henderson. “And when he sees the double-team coming, pass it out and we’ll get it back to him. He’s only a freshman—he’ll get it.”
Added junior point guard Juwan Staten: “Devin’s not the kind of guy you see pout much or get down on himself, but us being great teammates, we’re going to keep encouraging him.
“I think the speed of the game may be a little fast him, because he makes great moves and has a strong body. Once he realizes how fast the double-team is coming and the type of pressure they’re putting on him, I think he’ll be fine.”
Freshman Nate Adrian—with 36 of his 46 attempts coming from 3-point range so far—also recognizes the need to develop a low-post game, though that’s a task reserved for the offseason.
“That’s something I need to work on a lot,” he said. “Right now, I’m just shooting too much. I need to start working on my post game and taking the ball to the hole. It’s going to take a long time. It’s just a lot of repetition and teaching, but I’ll get it done.”
Predicting Adrian could sprout another inch up to 6-10, Huggins likes the idea of his small forward becoming multi-dimensional.
“At 6-10, that’s a pretty good-sized three-man,” Huggins said. “But it doesn’t do any good if you can’t take a smaller guy and put him on your back.”
NO NEWS ON HOLTON
Asked whether the completion of fall semester brought a decision on Holton’s eligibility, Huggins remained tight-lipped.
“Is he eligible now? No,” the coach said, declining to update the odds of Holton becoming eligible in the near future. “I don’t know how to answer that. Well, I do, but not for public consumption. It’s still in process. How’s that?”
After WVU castoff Aaric Murray dropped 48 points in Texas Southern’s upset at Temple this week, Huggins said he sent Murray a congratulatory text and the well-traveled player reportedly texted back.
Asked why Murray’s stint at West Virginia—which included a suspension and moments of questionable effort—didn’t work out, Huggins wasn’t about to re-open old wounds.
“I know what the right answer is, but I don’t know if I want to say what it is,” he said. “There’s no right or wrong answer, but I am happy for Aaric that he’s having some success.”
The 48-point game was the Division I-high this season and lifted Murray’s scoring average to 24.5.