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Season in Review: Keith Williams

Williams had a breakout season but there is still the potential that he will be even better.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Numbers

  • 9.9 points per game
  • 3.2 rebounds per game
  • 1.1 steals per game
  • .451/.276/.707 shooting splits

A lot of players for the 2018-19 Cincinnati Bearcats made striking improvements from their previous work. Jarron Cumberland became the best player in the American Athletic Conference. Trevon Scott and Nysier Brooks became pillars in the starting lineup. Justin Jenifer’s three-point shooting was exceptional. Even reserve contributor Eliel Nsoseme took a big step forward.

While all of those improvements were critical to the Bearcats’ run to a second-straight league tournament title, Keith Williams ascent to full-time starter and second scoring option was perhaps the most surprising. Williams had always been a player who could get buckets, but as a freshman, he struggled to find playing time let alone points to score. He averaged just 9.9 minutes per game and had a player efficiency rating of just 8.3. Fellow freshman Trevor Moore surpassed him and earned crunch-time playing responsibilities, making it seem like Williams would struggle to find his role as a sophomore.

That notion was proven inaccurate fairly early on. After playing off the bench in the season opener, Williams was inserted into the starting lineup, where he would play 32 times all season. It was easy to keep him in there as he more than doubled his player efficiency rating (16.9) while playing well on offense (107.2 rating) and defense (97.4 rating). During the course of the season, he exhibited the scoring skills that had been merely rumors previously. He ranked second on the team in scoring (9.9 points per game) and his ability to create shots for himself by using a collection of jab-steps and dribble moves shown through more often than not. His true shooting percentage (52.2) and effective field goal rate (48.8) may still need work, especially from beyond the arc, but Williams was usually the guy the Bearcats turned to when they needed someone other than Cumberland to get a bucket.

Williams’ other contributions included his active work on defense, as he nearly averaged a block (0.9) and a steal per game (1.1), a rare feat that no other player on the roster came close to achieving. He also got better at the free-throw line (70.7 percent) and was a more than capable rebounder (3.2 per game) when the occasion called for it.

The Best of the Best

Nov. 13 vs. NC Central

In his first career start, Williams showed that he belonged, scoring 15 points while adding four rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals.

Dec. 1 at UNLV

This was the closest Williams would get to posting a double-double (15 points, eight rebounds), but something tells me he might find his way to one of those next season.

Dec. 19 vs. UCLA

Williams scored a career-high 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including a 3-of-4 effort from beyond the arc.

Jan. 2 vs. Tulane

His 10 points might not stick out, but the fact that Williams had three steals and three blocks shows that he is more than just a scorer.

Feb. 17 vs. Wichita State

Williams wasn’t always the type to push the issue and get to the foul line, but he made 9-of-10 from the stripe in this contest, ultimately finishing with 15 points.

Feb. 21 vs. UCF

Williams may have only made 4-of-12 shots from the floor, but he scored nine of his 12 points — which tied him with Jenifer for the team lead — in the second half to help the Bearcats avoid a collapse.

Feb. 24 at UConn

In another game where points were difficult to find, Williams paced the Bearcats with 12 points while also adding in six rebounds and three assists.

For Next Season

Despite a rather impressive sophomore campaign, Williams has some obvious improvements he must make. The first is with his ability to consistently play at a high level, especially down the stretch. He averaged just 5.2 points per game over the last six contests and did not score in double figures once. He made just 41.2 percent from the floor and 12.7 percent from three in that time. That brings us to the next point, Williams is a talented scorer, but he could be even better if he improved his efficiency from beyond the arc. On a team with a new offensive approach, Williams will have the chance to take the next step in his progression as a scorer and a player overall.