Freshman guard Christian Williams already in the mix for playing time
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Freshman guard Christian Williams already has accomplished one of his goals as a member of the Iowa men’s basketball team.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Wednesday that the 6-foot-6 Williams probably wouldn’t redshirt this season.
Williams has been saying that since he arrived on campus this summer. The Decatur, Ill., native had no intention of being redshirted this season and he let McCaffery know right away.
“Earlier in the year I had a meeting with him and he said there was no intention of redshirting me and he asked me if I wanted to redshirt and I told him no,” Williams said Wednesday before practice. “And he said, then we’re on the same page then.”
Williams is one of five true freshmen on the Iowa roster and among six newcomers overall if you include junior-college transfer Dale Jones.
McCaffery said Wednesday without being specific that at least one of the freshmen would be redshirted this season, or maybe two.
There is speculation it’ll either be Chicago natives Brandon Hutton or Isaiah Moss who gets redshirted, or maybe even both of them since they both barely played in the first exhibition game last Thursday against Sioux Falls. The other two true freshmen on the team are 6-7 forward Ahmad Wagner and 6-4 shooting guard Andrew Fleming. Wagner was the first true freshmen to see playing time against Sioux Falls, while Fleming led the five freshmen with eight points and 14 minutes of playing time against Sioux Falls.
Iowa will play its second exhibition game on Friday against Augustana (S.D.), which is ranked No. 1 at the Division II level and coming off a 31-win season.
Williams played nine minutes in the first exhibition game and is expected to compete for playing time at both guard positions. But his development at point guard could be crucial to Iowa’s long-terms success, considering the top two point guards on the team are seniors Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons.
“(Coach McCaffery) likes me at (point guard), but he sees me playing the two and three as well,” Williams said. “It just depends on what we need out there. It depends on how the flow of the game is going.”
Williams is working hard to improve his point guard skills knowing the position will be up for grabs next season.
Iowa will add Linn-Mar senior point guard Jordan Bohannon to the roster next season, while McCaffery’s son, Connor McCaffery, a 6-5 junior point guard at Iowa City West High School, already has committed to Iowa and will join the team for the 2016-017 season.
“We’re losing Mike and (Anthony) and we’re going to need a primary one,” Williams said. “I’m usually in here as much as possible as I can be.”
Williams was determined to make an immediate impression and he knew the best way to gain McCaffery’s respect was to excel on defense.
“This summer I came in and did pretty good defensively and that was the whole concept of coach, he’s a real defensive guy,” Williams said of McCaffery, who is in his sixth season as the Iowa head coach. “So if you get that down pat, then you’re in pretty good shape.”
Williams also has proven to be a good listener and a quick learner. He thinks that also has helped to earn McCaffery’s trust.
“I’m not a guy that he has to remind a couple times,” Williams said. “He doesn’t really like to remind people.”
Iowa returns four starters from last season’s team that finished 22-12 overall and won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2001.
McCaffery is always looking to add scorers to his rotation, but not at the expense of playing solid defense.
“Typically, your ability to score is what gets you in the game and what keeps you on the floor,” McCaffery said. “But at the same time, we have pretty good offensive players. And if you can’t defend, especially against a really good team, obviously, Friday is one of them, but there’s so many good teams on our schedule, if you can’t defend, then you can’t be out there because you’re creating so many problems for everybody else. You can’t be playing four-on-five because they’re going to find the open guy and they’re going to score.”
Williams didn’t even mention scoring when asked how he thinks he can help Iowa this season.
“I believe I can come on the court with some good minutes and provide a lot of defensive help and rebounds,” Williams said.
Gesell seems to believe that, too.
“I don’t think Christian plays like a freshman,” Gesell said. “I think he has a lot of potential. And every day in practice if I’m going against him, I’m just looking to really pressure him and get him read and try to get him a feel of what a Big Ten game is like.”
Gesell already has seen Williams’ height pay dividends in practice. He compared Williams to former Hawkeye Devyn Marble, who was similar in height.
“It’s just a tough matchup,” said the 6-1 Gesell. “A lot of the guards in the Big Ten are my height, around 6-foot. So it’s really going to help him. It makes passing easier and creating your own shots easier.”
Williams also was a standout dual-threat quarterback in high school in Decatur, Ill., but he didn’t play football as a senior in order to focus on basketball. However, he hasn’t ruled out switching back to football if basketball doesn’t work out.
“I love football, but it just depends on basketball,” Williams said. “If it doesn’t work out, then that’s probably something I would pursue.”
For now, though, basketball seems to be working out just fine.