Coming out of high school, Elliot Williams was one of the most highly regarded players in the nation. As a result, many Duke fans expected big things from Williams because his athleticism added something that the Blue Devils' squad has sorely lacked recently beyond that of moon-walker Gerald Henderson. Unfortunately for Williams, this season has not gone as expected as his role has been limited due to Coach K's substituion pattern. However, this all seemed to change Thursday night at Madison Square Garden...
In the aforementioned game at MSG against Big East bottom feeder St. John's, Elliot Wiliiams made just the second start of his career. He played 31 minutes and contributed 11 points to go along with solid defense against the Johnnies. This is surprising because Williams has only played double-figure minutes in three games since ACC play began, with a high of 16 minutes in a blowout win versus Virginia. On the season, Williams is averaging only two more points per game than turnovers per game (2.9 to .9), but this might all change as the Devils enter the final leg of ACC play.
Now that we have established what this season has been like so far for Elliot, I would like to rewind a bit to give people that do not follow recruiting some perspective on the situation. Since most people who do not follow recruiting only look at one factor, we will start there. Yes, Elliot Williams was a McDonald's All-American. He ended up ranked 16th in both the Rivals and Scout ratings (only 3 spots behind Al-Farouq Aminu) and a five-star recruit.
Hailing from Memphis, TN, Williams put up great all-around numbers in his final two seasons at St. George's Independent School: 25.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game as a junior and 24.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game as a senior, making all-state teams both years.
One can hardly imagine what it is like going from having hundreds of people coming to watch your high school games and being the talk of the town to going to Duke and riding the bench for the majority of the season. While it hasn't been easy, Elliot seems to have handled it well. In a recent interview with Blue Devil Nation, Williams said, "Yeah, it was tough. That’s the toughest part as a freshman. Coming into a situation where there are a lot of good players in front of you. You have a lot of moves that you can do in high school that you can’t do in college."
He continued, saying, "The things I had to do were watch how Jon (Scheyer) moves. Watch how he moves off the ball. I watched “G” and how he used his athleticism to get into mid range - things like that. Coach is coach! Whatever he says, I’m going to believe in." With such a great attitude, Elliot is sure to be a force in the ACC in his final three years.
Onto the big showdown on Sunday night. It will be interesting to see if the 6'4" Williams gets the starting nod again. If he does, he may get the task of guarding Jeff Teague, which will be a much more difficult assignment than he faced in New York City on Thursday night. Teague will be looking to bounce back from only scoring 11 in the first matchup in Winston-Salem.
If Williams can give the Blue Devils another scoring option off drives to the basket, he could be an important factor in the game on the other end of the floor as well. This could potentially decrease Duke's reliance on their slumping three-point shooting, which would be a nice positive for them in their remaining games.
Regardless of his role tomorrow, Elliot Williams' defense, athleticism and character all point to him being an impact player in the ACC sooner rather than later.