Offseason storylines: Is Troy Williams ready to make a leap?

  • 06/23/2014 3:35 pm in

Welcome to offseason storylines, a look into some of the biggest storylines surrounding the 2014-2015 Indiana Hoosiers. Next up, a detailed look at sophomore Troy Williams and whether he can make a major leap in production as a sophomore. (Previously: A look at Indiana’s youth and how it got here.)

As one of two returning players who started each of Indiana’s 32 games last season, much will be expected of Troy Williams as he enters his sophomore season in Bloomington. Williams is back on campus now, but spent time last month working out in Texas under John Lucas.

There’s little doubt that Williams arrived on campus possessing the athleticism necessary to make plays right away in the Big Ten, but the nuances of the games like reading defenses and making the simple play rather than trying to do too much were slower to come along. He admitted as much in an interview earlier this month with, while also noting that the physicality was a major adjustment:

“I also had a lot to learn about the game itself, things like different ways to play pick-and-roll defense or how to defend other screening situations,” he said. “That was the biggest adjustment for me.”

With one season under his belt, a healthy amount of minutes played and a roster packed with youth, Indiana is going to rely on Williams to take a significant jump forward in order to reach its goal of returning to the NCAA tournament. In terms of career minutes logged, Williams will be Indiana’s second most experienced player entering the 2014-2015 season.

So what does Indiana need out of Williams as a sophomore? Improved shooting, much better decision making and a bigger presence on the glass would be near the top of the checklist.

On the shooting front, Williams wasn’t called on to score much as a freshman, but made 56.9 percent of his 2s, 67.5 percent of his free throws and 20.7 percent of his 3s. In terms of usage, Williams was sixth on the roster in terms of percentage of possessions used (19.4) and third amongst the returnees behind Yogi Ferrell (25.0) and Stanford Robinson (23.0).

As the shot chart below from shows, he was easily most effective around the basket:


When he did move away from the basket, Williams was more effective as a right wing shooter than anywhere else. Given what Indiana is adding on the perimeter with James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson from a shooting perspective, the need for Williams to make or even attempt 3-pointers should dwindle significantly, but being able to knock down a timely 3 when left open will keep defenses from overplaying him on the drive.

According to Synergy Sports, Williams was most effective offensively off of cuts, where he had 44 of his 258 possessions as a freshman. On those possessions, he averaged 1.61 points per possession (71 points in 44 possessions). A little surprisingly given his ability as a finisher, he wasn’t particularly good in transition possessions. In 73 transition possessions, he scored just 64 points for 0.877 points per possession. With experience, Williams should learn to convert more of those transition possessions into easy baskets rather than going for the home run play.

Williams also did a nice job of getting to the free throw line as a freshman (44.5 free throw rate), but converted just 67.5 percent of those attempts, which is another area for offseason improvement. If his free throw numbers can come closer to the numbers we saw out of Victor Oladipo as a sophomore (49.8 free throw rate, 75.0 percent), Williams should easily be able to add 1.5 to 2 points to his scoring average at the free line alone.

The turnover piece, an issue that affected just about every Indiana player last season, is a major area of opportunity for Williams to improve upon. Of the six Indiana players with the highest usage percentages, Williams had the highest turnover percentage at 24.8. Getting that number to a more manageable figure — 20 percent or lower — would do wonders for his efficiency as well as put the coaching staff more at ease with having the ball in his hands more frequently.

And last, but certainly not the only remaining focus for Williams as he enters his second season, is his work on the glass. As a freshman, Williams posted an offensive rebounding percentage of 8.1 and a defensive rebounding percentage of 15.1. His defensive rebounding number figure was very solid, but given how much Indiana lost on the glass and how big of a focus this is in the style Tom Crean likes to play, the 6-foot-7 Williams, much like Hanner Mosquera-Perea, is going to be called on to become an even bigger factor on the glass.

Yogi Ferrell is easily Indiana’s best returning player and Blackmon Jr., Johnson and Stanford Robinson should give the Hoosiers enough backcourt depth to win games. But the frontcourt rotation is largely a mystery going into the season and given that Crean said earlier this month that he expects Indiana to be “unconventional” in how it plays, it’s not hard to envision Williams spending a lot of minutes in a role similar to what we saw out of Glenn Robinson III at Michigan as an undersized four.

For his part, Williams is embracing the challenge that awaits him as a sophomore.

“The team prior to us getting here – with Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller and all of the upperclassmen – they all knew what their role was and they stuck to them,” he said recently. “Last year, there were some people, including myself, that would try to do more than what their role was. So for this year, we are going to try to help the new players understand what they are good at and then help them evolve around that.”

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  • Michael

    I think he will be the most improved player.

    just be ready for a lot more dunks and rebounds!

  • Brian Stewart

    Just take better care of the basketball, and let the game come to him and I’ll be happy.

  • Caleb Moore

    Agree I think he will be most improved as well just from the idea that his ceiling is the highest. He needs to average 7rbs per game this year. He could be a great defender too with his length and athleticism. If Troy and Hanner take big leaps then we will be back in the tournament and could be a scary team to face late in the year. If not, we will again be middle of the pack in the BT and on the bubble. Troy just needs to play his game and take what comes to him. He’s got too much skill and potential to force. Just let it happen in the flow of the game and build confidence from that. With all the shooters we have this year there will be plenty of openings in the offense to do your thing.

  • AZIU71

    1) Cut down on turnovers 2)Finish at the basket (make the shot, forget the highlight reel) 3) Better defender in half court D. He has the tools, could be a major breakout year for him.

  • E Foy McNaughton

    Cudos to ITH — great article

  • N71

    To me the X factor for Troy is his defense. His offense skills were good to begin with and they should improve which doesn’t necessarily qualify as a leap. Being able to shoot the 3 would be entering “leap” status, but with his athletic gifts he could be a freak defender. I could see him wreaking havoc both on the perimeter and interior. Jumping lanes and running to the end for showman type dunks. Once Victor developed his body he was able to impose his will, I’d like to see the same thing from Troy.

  • Gregory Spera

    Indiana’s official roster lists Troy at 6′-7″ and just 206 lbs. If we have learned anything about college measurements, he is probably not even that big.
    I think the kid could be a star at the 3. He is such an explosive talent. But it is what it is. Three guard lineup? Four guard lineup? Who knows? This season will certainly be interesting, if nothing else. Still praying for Hanner to see the light, Devin grow two inches, or for April to surprise.

  • hardly

    as much as troy is a slasher, it would probably be smart to work on his game on the block as that area of the floor should be wide open for the next couple of years. He’s probably the only guy that can create mismatches there. Of course that assumes we learn how to make post entry passes.

  • David Macer

    This year is going to be interesting to say the least. Just like last year, we will enter the season with a lot of question marks. Perhaps some of the personnel changes are for the better as I always questioned last year’s team chemistry.
    On paper, this team could far exceed expectations. Or, we could have another year like last season. I’m hoping for the former.

    Let’s go young Hoosiers !!!

  • David Macer

    One other thing to consider. Troy has all the same physical attributes that VO had. To advance into the NBA in a couple years, he is going to have to improve his shooting period. Work on your shot, my young friend, including FT’s

  • PV Mike

    If he has any NBA aspirations, he will need to be able to hit a respectable % from the 3 point area. If not, then he should learn another language to play overseas.

  • ForeverIU

    Thanks, Alex. Great info!

  • BMusic

    I think Victor just had a defensive mindset from the start. Loved to bait passers on the perimeter. I’m not sure to what extent that can be taught.

  • Hoosier Hall

    I don’t think Troy’s height is exaggerated that much. He is very lengthy but needs to add some muscle. His game IQ will improve with experience but to improve as an outside shooter he will need to put a lot of work in at Cook Hall.

  • Dave Carnes

    He needs to play some D.There is no excuse with his athleticism that he was constantly standing behind his defender win the play was over.

  • Dave Carnes

    Agree with Bmusic.Victor was darn near a lock down defender from the start.Comparing Williams and Vic that way is nonsense.

  • N71

    That logic thread then implies that Victor could not have developed the offensive skill set he now possesses.

  • Alford Bailey

    O, he can leap alright!

  • Dave Carnes

    My point is there is no comparison between the two.One was an athletic freak who could never get good enough to take his foot off the gas.The other a raw talent who relies mostly on talent and doesn’t give the effort in a week that the other displayed on every play.You can’t be abused like that on defense while trying to play defense.

  • ForeverIU

    Of course you can teach mindsets, or what is a college education about? This should be the most teachable aspect of basketball.

  • He’s trained with Lucas for many years. Beyond that, can’t tell you much else.

  • I really can’t agree with you on that.. Check the stats.. I’m sure you’ll find Vice had far more deflections, steals and rebounds as his IU career progressed.. To say he was “lock down” on defense, from the start, just isn’t an accurate statement IMO.

  • IUreturn

    Except for number 3, very similar to what VO needed to work on. Really needs work defending of ball screens and a little less gambling in the passings lanes. He’s going to be a great player.

  • IUreturn

    This. Copy and paste to all player previews.

    It’s all mental errors. dribble off foot, pass to nobody, driving 2 steps too deep. All can be fixed, another year should help slow the game down for many.

  • Dave Carnes

    I said almost lock down from the start.VIC got better at everything along the way but he came to us with an ability and willingness to play defense.My larger point is he was to special to try to compare anyone on our current team with.I don’t mean to bang on Troy to hard but what I witnessed this season leaves me wandering.I his defense nobody on the team got better at anything as I remember.

  • Well I would have to agree with you.. on your larger point. No one made significant improvement in turnovers or really on overall defense. If anyone did improve even the slightest, though, it probably was Troy. I think he played better ‘under control’ at the end of the season than at the start. I think if there was one thing and this certainly isn’t any great amount of deduction on my part.. it was turnovers. I remember there was a two game stretch during the season, where the turnovers were down to maybe 9 or 10 for a couple of games.. then just when we all thought maybe they had it.. it started getting worse again. I just remember even the games though that we had a shot at winning at the end, we could never make the winning shot, a lot of the time even not getting off a decent shot… Or, when coming down the floor with an opportunity to take the lead at a crucial point in the game.. we never made the shot and most times we’d turn it over.. Very frustrating, for sure.

  • Outoftheloop

    Troy’s freshman season was very similar to Vic’s: min (V/T) 576/689; FG 547/509; 3-pt% 308/207; FT% 602/675; Reb 119/140; A 28/29; TO 44/57; Stl 34/26; Blk 7/13; Pts 236/234. For this team to be a Sweet Sixteen team,Troy will have to improve to the stats of Vic’s junior year! That is asking a lot, even of this very talented player. Of course those stats propelled Vic to the #2 position in the NBA Draft! So beware of what you ask for. But for IU to be good this season we will need Troy, Yogi and James to each be a big time scoring force in every game.

  • Outoftheloop

    It took Vic 3 years to do just that! Let’s give Troy the same lee way

  • ForeverIU

    If we keep treating Vic like The Second Coming of Jesus Christ, then we will never get another Vic, ever, because Christ isn’t coming a third time, lol. I can easily see Troy becoming a top NBA prospect in two years.

  • Dee McDonald

    It could be a bit inflated, but he was listed at 6’7″ by ESPN coming out of high school and 6’6″ by Scout coming out of high school. ESPN is by far the more accurate of databases, so I’d say at worst, he’s 6’6″ or so. Either way, Will was a little shorter than him and played the 4 quite a bit last year. The only thing that scares me there is that Will’s basketball IQ is off the charts and Troy’s isn’t (yet), so that could be a steep learning curve playing a newer position within the offense (more importantly defensive). The least of my concern with his springs is his height (strength would be one though).

  • ForeverIU

    I can’t wait to see Troy and the team playing in Canada, especially against Carleton, which beat Wisconsin last year and went to OT with Syracuse. Ottawa is also supposed to be very good. Does anyone know if these games will be televised? Let’s see if Troy produces the same way he did (or better) in the last four games of the past season (28 mins and 13 points per game).

  • ForeverIU

    LOL!. Silly season.

  • Gregory Spera

    All of these players have the individual skill sets to play good defense if they put there minds to it, IMHO. It was TEAM defense that was sorely lacking last year. It was not just on the offensive end of the court that the Hoosiers were totally out of sync. That team never jelled on the defensive end either. We didn’t defend the basket well (even with Noah), especially on set plays (Penn State comes to mind), and we couldn’t defend the three point line (the Purdue debacle.) We played one great defensive game all season (against Michigan) and then looked terrible the next three in a row, all losses (including that Purdue blowout.) I know “we didn’t have the shooters” on the offensive end, but those athletes should have been an EXCELLENT defensive team. Eighth in the B1G on D? That’s on Crean. And remember that was WITH Noah almost single handedly making us the B1G leaders in rebounding defense.

  • ForeverIU

    I am not disagreeing with you. Obviously we should work on our D. But Kenpom had us at #47 on D last year, 5th in the B1G, two spots ahead of Wisconsin (!!!). Where do you see us as 8th on D in the B1G?

  • CreamandCrimson

    “Will played the 4 quite a bit last year”….that’s true but did we see much last year that should lead us to believe that playing a 6’6” swing man out of position leads to success for us? Sheehey struggled for large chunks of last season and some of that could be attributed to playing a different position than he was used to.

    I don’t know if it will work or not (and we really don’t have all that many options because Troy needs to be on the floor plus our 4 guards need a lot of PT). I do think it’s pretty concerning that a very experienced and savvy player like Will Sheehey struggled with playing out of position at the 4 and we will now be asking Troy Williams to do a very similar thing as a sophomore.

  • CreamandCrimson

    I can’t imagine which network would be putting these exhibition games on TV. I know the BTN won’t be sending any crews to Canada and I can’t think of any other options. I think we’ll be settling for edited footage from IU’s media team and some good recaps from ITH.

  • Troy has the tools to be an NBA All Star. iIf he can put it all together, I have no doubt that he will be just that. A star at the next level. . I really believe that.

  • Gregory Spera

    Eighth in scoring defense.

  • This is a really good article btw. Keep these coming!

  • Dave Carnes

    That is a pretty lofty goal.I think he as much raw ability as many in the NBA though.

  • Dave Carnes

    One thing that bodes well for the coming season is Blackmon may have been the best shooter in high school ball.Hopefully Crean doesn’t coach that out of him.

  • HoosierGrampy

    If CTC agrees w/your premise that Troy, James & Yogi need to be IU’s main scoring options, don’t expect a quantum leap up the B1G standings for this coming year. IMO, Yogi’s biggest challenge is to find balance between being a “Pass First or Shoot First” PG. If he remains the floor general, he’s going to have to find ways to get and keep his teammates involved and focused on creating opportunities in which each can take advantage of his individual skill sets via screens, pick ‘n rolls, back cuts, shooting 3’s-floaters-mid-range jumpers, etc. If we have to watch repeat performances of the YF Dribbling Exhibition in the 2014-15 season, these guys will be lucky to equal last seasons W-L record. Without question, the talent to do so is there. I cannot speak to their collective will and desire to be the best they can be…CTC has something to do with that aspect of their game…

  • HoosierGrampy

    Get put your tapes of Dominique and get ready to compare them w/what IU’s version of the Human Highlight Reel will produce this coming year. Dude’s got some serious hops but doesn’t get props because it seems that ESPN is always showing Sam Thompson’s Suckeye stuffs.

  • CreamandCrimson

    You think the coach (Tom Crean or anyone else) plays a part in each individual’s “will and desire to be the best they can be”? Seems like each player should be responsible for their own desire.

  • Outoftheloop

    You confuse monopolizing the time of offensive play with unproductive dribbling by Yogi last season (when he had few teammate scoring options) with Yogi scoring 15-20 points/game this season with less time with the ball in his hands! This season Yogi can score off of assists from teammates (which almost never happened last season)! I repeat that for IU to be good this season Yogi, Troy and James must be big time scorers in every game!

  • David Macer

    Won’t happen. Most coaches at this level never fiddle with a kid’s shot unless there is a real mechanics problem.

  • SCHoosier

    Troy’s scoring will come..but if he doesn’t become at leas an average defender (and was far from it last year)…he’s not going to see the court at crunch time.

  • VAHoosier

    I agree. Vic had terrific defensive instincts to go alongside his freak athleticism. Troy could be a great defender, but he probably will never be the instinctual defender that VO was/is.

  • HoosierGrampy

    I truly hope that last season was an aberration on the offensive end of the court. Different players with different skill sets will perhaps produce a better performance this coming season…we’ll soon see!

  • Corey M

    TW is probably the most under discussed player on ITH this offseason.. I am just as excited about the duo of Yogi and JBJr as everyone else but I could see Troy being the show stopper several nights!