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Returning Player Refresher: Keith Williams

Williams is a fearless offensive player. Now he needs to be an efficient one as well.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Keith Williams is a shooter. He isn’t afraid to shoot early in games, in the middle of them or at the very end. He doesn’t mind putting up shots from beyond the arc, mid-range or in the lane. If there’s one thing he is always going to do, its shoot the ball.

As Williams enters his sophomore season for the Cincinnati Bearcats, its clear that he’s going to be taking a lot more shots. That was made evident throughout the summer and into this fall, as Williams consistently was among the team leaders in field goal attempts during exhibition games and during the red and black scrimmage earlier this month. He took 18 shots in the scrimmage, which was second on the team and more than Jarron Cumberland, Justin Jenifer and Trevor Moore, among other returning contributors. He took 31 combined shots in the three summer exhibition games as well.

Now that we’ve established that Williams likes to shoot and will be asked to do so more often, its time to look at what happens after the ball leaves his fingertips. A sometimes streaky offensive player, Williams introduced himself to the Bearcats by scoring 10 points in each of his first two games, including last year’s season opener when he took 12 shots. He didn’t score in double figures again, and slowly ceded time on the wing to fellow freshman Trevor Moore, but he still saw time in 33 games, averaging nearly 10 minutes each time.

However, during his freshman season, despite his love of shooting, Williams went through the type of rookie pains you might expect. He only made 38.5 percent of his shots, including a dismal 14.8 percent from three. His true shooting percentage (.424) was therefore quite low and since he isn’t much of a distributor, his offensive contributions were lacking, as he had an offensive rating of 84.2. With Jacob Evans, Gary Clark and Kyle Washington all gone this year, it is going to be exceptionally important that guys who get a lot of shot opportunities make them. Williams falls directly into that group. If he can take and make more shots this season, the Bearcats will have a player made to create instant offense.

Mick Cronin isn’t a big fan of one-dimensional players, however, so Williams will need to at least hold his own on defense. He did more than that as a freshman, with a defensive rating of 90.5. He got help from plenty of experienced defenders and was usually going up against second units for opponents, but he moved well and can be a real disruptive force, as he averaged the second-most steals per 100 possessions of anyone on the team.

The three and D role is a term that is thrown around a lot in the NBA nowadays. As the college game shifts toward the professional trends, what with elevated scoring and three-point reliance, three and D players are increasingly becoming staples of rosters in the NCAA. Williams fits the mold perfectly since he loves to shoot and he can already defend. If he can just start making more of those shots (especially from long range), then he will have a big role to play all year.