Offseason storylines: Is Troy Williams in line for another leap?

  • 07/01/2015 3:53 pm in

Welcome to offseason storylines, a look into some of the biggest storylines surrounding the 2015-2016 Indiana Hoosiers. First up, a detailed look at rising junior Troy Williams — his game, his numbers, his future and the possibility of another big leap as a junior. 

If the title here looks familiar, it’s because a post with a similar title was penned last June. At the time, Williams was coming off a freshman season with mixed results, but there was plenty of optimism for what he might become in his second collegiate season.

A year later, Williams appears on the cusp of a breakout after a sophomore season full of improvements. At the recent Nike Skills Academy, Williams was already being discussed as a player who could find himself with a guaranteed NBA contract a season from now.

But there’s still plenty of room for growth for a player who has the talent to land in the first round of next June’s NBA draft. In fact, according to Williams’ uncle, Boo Williams, there were teams willing to consider him in the first round of this year’s draft, but that wasn’t assurance enough to convince him it was time to go.

“I don’t think Troy is anywhere near his ceiling,” Boo Williams told Inside the Hall back in April. “I think Troy has the potential to get better. There were some teams willing to draft Troy in the first round. Not many, but enough to make you think about it. I think he’ll be better next year, especially if he has the same improvement he did this year.”

The perspective of Boo Williams, who knows the game at the grassroots level as well as anyone, isn’t one that is found nearly enough when it comes to underclassmen making decisions on whether to enter the draft. The NBA is a league that drafts on future growth and while Williams has plenty of room for it, potential only gets you so far. There are countless examples of players who leave early for the league, stick around for a few years and then are never heard from again. Williams undoubtedly would have been given a chance somewhere, but at this stage, would he have had any staying power?

Coming back for a third season keeps Williams in the hunt to earn a degree in three years, allows him to grow his game for another season and sets him up to accomplish much more in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament while also solidifying his draft profile.

Making the decision to return even more clear are examples of several players who have grown under Tom Crean and his staff. Sure, there are examples of highly-touted recruits who never panned out, but those who take an ownership in their development and put in the time typically reap the benefits. This was true at Michigan State when Crean was a lead assistant under Tom Izzo, it was true at Marquette and it’s also been the case at Indiana. Player development is a big part of Indiana’s recruiting pitch and when one of the best NBA players of the last decade comes to Bloomington (with teammates in tow) to get in offseason work with Crean and his staff, it shows that it’s not just some gimmick.

In terms of the numbers, Williams took a major step forward as a sophomore, but still has plenty of work to do. He showed off an improved jump shot last season, but the sample size wasn’t large enough to consider it a legitimate part of his game.

His 3-point attempts were down – 29 as a freshman versus 13 as a sophomore – but his efficiency improved as his percentage grew from 20.7 to 46.7. The volume of attempts may not increase significantly in his junior season, but being able to continue to sprinkle a jumper in consistently (and perhaps a bit more often, too) will force defenses to make a choice: give him space or risk being blown past on the dribble.

In an interview earlier in the week with Andy Katz and Seth Greenburg, Crean mentioned that the 3-guard offense “could be a lot more of weapon than a necessity because we’ve got to be bigger,” which suggests that lineups with Williams spending time at the 3 could happen more frequently. But for that to happen with any regularity and to pair Williams in the frontcourt with say, Emmitt Holt and Thomas Bryant, the jump shot must continue to improve.

Speaking of the dribble, Williams also showed improvement in his decision making and ability to facilitate as a sophomore, but is still a work in progress. His turnover rate as a sophomore dipped by more than five percent while his assist rate jumped by more than six percent. That sounds good, but a turnover percentage of 19.3 is still high. The Indiana staff, of course, shouldn’t put the brakes on Williams in the open court, but as Crean often emphasizes, making the simple play must be the primary focus.

On the glass, the addition of Bryant should only help Williams and Indiana. The Hampton native was the team’s best defensive rebounder last season and it wasn’t really close. In fact, he was the second best defensive rebounder in the Big Ten in league games (25 DR%). Surrounding Williams with better frontcourt talent should help the Hoosiers improve on what was a below average performance last season on the defensive glass. IU’s defensive problems last season started on the perimeter, but falling from 28th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage in 2013-2014 to 188th last season didn’t help, either.

Consistency, too, is a key for Williams. It’s no secret that when Williams played well last season, Indiana did too in many cases. In 18 wins (he missed IU’s first two regular season games), he averaged 13.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game with an effective field goal percentage of 60.2. In 14 losses, Williams came in at 12.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game with an effective field goal percentage of just 49.2. Those aren’t major differences in terms of per game averages, but the efficiency number is certainly notable.

As we sit here four weeks into IU’s “phase two” of the offseason, it appears Williams is doing his part to set himself up for another leap as he enters his junior season. He again spent time in Houston working with John Lucas – something he did last offseason as well – and also challenged himself with the trip to Santa Monica for the Nike Basketball Academy.

This leap, however, may not be able to be judged quite like the one from his freshman to sophomore season, at least statistically. Given all the pieces returning around him, Williams may not score or rebound the ball more this coming season, but continuing to improve his efficiency and cutting down the turnovers will have a tangible effect on Indiana winning more games. And as the program enters a pivotal season with increased expectations, winning is as good a measure as any to judge improvement for Williams in his third season.

“The number one thing that’s going to differentiate them is if they win and win big,” Crean said early last month. “Because if you win big, now you’re putting yourself in a different realm. And that’s got to be as much of a driving force as anything else.”

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  • hoosier93

    The biggest for Troy is whether he’s put in a position to succeed. He wasn’t last year. The team wasn’t last year. He can be very good. We’ll see if the necessary changes are made.

  • Robert Golden

    I think TW has MKG potential.

  • hoosier93

    It’d be nice if he’d play defense like MKG. The crazy thing is that MKG was doing that as a freshman (should have been a Senior in HS).

  • TomJameson

    Troy will have a very big leap and go in the lottery … IF he stays focused and keeps working. I have no doubt that is exactly what he is going to do. I hope Troy, and the rest of the team as well, come out and play with attitude all year long. They need to play like they have something to prove … because they do!

  • Robert Golden

    I have watched MKG up close for over 8 years. I have never believed more in a kid to succeed. He doesnt know how to fail.

  • hoosier93

    Only bad thing for him is how broke his shot mechanics were. Though Mark Price helped him out a ton.

  • Robert Golden

    That MKG pull up jumper just inside the 3 was deadly.

  • hoosier93

    Have you ever seen the still shot picture of his shot? Yikes!

  • Robert Golden


  • mckillio

    If his ball handling skills improve as much as they did between his 1st and 2nd season, this offense is going to have a ton of ball movement, especially when he’s at the 4. But as we all know, defense will be the deciding factor for our success.

  • Tyler T

    Another lottery pick from Indiana University next season. Go Hoosiers.

  • MK

    LOL MKG can’t shoot.

  • HoosierStuckInKY

    I think developing his defensive instincts, a solid jump shot, and other guard skills will be key in Troy’s eventual move to the NBA. I say this primarily due to his height. Several 2’s and most 3’s in the NBA are his size. To get playing time, he will need to be able to harness a skill set comparable to his future peers in the pros. And in college, having a 6’7″ athletic freak that can play like a guard is deadly.
    I cannot wait until the season starts. The hot days in the summer seem so long, and then you realize it’s barely July and the basketball off season isn’t even half over….

  • Robert Golden

    Sorry got nothing #worthless

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    excited to see how much his jumper has improved. he showed flashes last year, but still lacked the soft touch that pure shooters have. i think it’s mainly due to the fact that he plays so darn fast! it’s an asset when getting to the rim, blocking a shot, rebounding, etc…not so much when launching a jumper. even the ones that went in had more of a line drive trajectory than an arc.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Troy Williams has improved his game dramatically every offseason (he was much better during his freshman year than I thought he’d be based on how raw he was in high school, he was much better as a sophomore than a freshman) and I see no reason not to expect another jump. That being said, it’s often thought that the jump from “decent” to “good” is much easier than the jump from “good” to “great”. I love his explosiveness, his effort, his ability to score at will on the baseline and his commitment to rebounding.

    I’d love to see Troy continue to round out his offensive game with extended/more consistent range and increased efficiency. The two biggest things I’ll be looking for though are:
    -Better defense…Troy has the physical tools and the mental capability (I believe he sees the game very well and is a very intelligent player that occasionally makes poor decisions with the ball) to be a very good defender, here’s to hoping that occurs in 2015. It would be a huge help to be able to use his length to pester opposing team’s wing players.
    -Consistency against really physical teams…This is certainly not definitive but here are his games against the teams I consider to be renowned for physicality:
    MSU (0 and 1/4 and 3), Louisville (10 and 1), Wichita State (11 and 12 but shot only 2-10), Purdue (8 and 6/14 and 7…one of the few that played well). I don’t know if there was a theme to the way these teams played him or if it means anything but it stood out to me during the season and we’ll need him to be a bit more consistent in 2015 if we are to accomplish the goals that many have for this team. There is no excuse for Troy Williams to ever have a game with 1 rebound or to have zero points.

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    this kid has the tools to play 15 years in the NBA, KEEP WORKING FOR YOUR DREAM TW!!

  • cooper

    His best attribute has to be something other than athleticism. Once it is, he can be a good pro. But he either needs to become a lock down defender, 3point shooter or someone who can handle without so many turnovers to have a career.
    Hopefully we see a developed shot and better driving to the lane without so many turnovers. Not sure I see him ever becoming a lock down defender. It seems like guys either are or aren’t they can get better but never great
    I think the MKG is a good offensive projection and he can probably be better, but like some said MKG is great on D.

    The offseason is so boring

  • TomJameson

    That’s one reason I think Troy will be playing the 3/4 position, but more of the 3 than the 4. I also think he’ll be initiating the offense past half-court quite often For pressing defenses, or when playing fast-handed guards, Yogi will (of course) bring the ball up, but I still see RJ and Troy doing some of the 1 duties.

  • TomJameson

    I think we started to see his better shooting near the end of last season, as well as the slashing without turnovers. I’m really hoping we’ll see further development in those areas this year as well as the defensive mindset. Remember that he’s been told that via NBA feedback, and he is a hard worker. I have very little doubt that he will get the job done.

    YES – the offseason is way too long. LOL

  • Sarasota Hoosier

    It says that Troy could be set to graduate in 3 years. I have always wondered how college basketball players accomplish this. 120 credits in general to earn undergraduate degree, which equals 40 credits per year or 20 per semester if you graduate in 3 years. 15 hours per semester is a full load, especially for a basketball player. I know they can take summer classes and I guess that is online, but it doesn’t seem like Troy is spending much time on academics this summer, going to John Lucas and other camps etc. 10 hours in the summer is a pretty heavy load. Anyone know how it gets done? Even very easy courses require some work, especially when IU strives to maintain a high GPA. Do players get PE credit for practice participation perhaps? Any thoughts on how this gets accomplished?