Chuck Landon: Williams keeping late-season surge going
Danny D’Antoni was hard on Jannson Williams.
I mean, really hard.
Practice after practice during the early and middle stages of the 2017-18 season, Marshall’s head coach verbally hounded the 6-foot-8 redshirt freshman.
“If you ask Jannson, he was my whippin’ boy,” said D’Antoni with a grin. “I was always on him. That’s because I saw the potential in him. I don’t even think he realized the potential in himself.
“So, we were always on him. He’s gone from that to now you hardly ever have to say anything to him. He’s alert. He’s athletic, he can shoot. ... He’s got a deadly shot and gets it off quickly.”
That was the method to D’Antoni’s madness.
As a result, Williams averaged 12.6 points and 7.2 rebounds during a five-game, late-season stretch, which included wins at Middle Tennessee, three victories in the Conference USA tournament and the groundbreaking triumph over Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament.
But as good as Williams was then, wait until MU’s fans see him now.
“I weigh 220 pounds now,” said the sophomore. “Last year I played at 200 pounds, maybe. I ended up last season at 6-8, 200 pounds.
“But, now, I’m 220 and, hopefully, I can get to 230-235 and that’s just going to be weight. Once basketball season comes round, I’ll be cutting it down to 220. At 220, it’s good weight.
“There is good weight and bad weight. Last year I couldn’t go up with somebody and lean into them or anything. I would just collapse. And they would knock me off-balance.
“But I think with me being at this weight or maybe a little bit heavier, I can go up and maybe knock somebody out ... like I got knocked out last season. My goal is to be that big and also be able to run and screen and shoot and all that stuff in the flow of the game.”
That’s precisely what Williams has done during Marshall’s summer workouts. Besides being noticeably bigger and more muscular, his jumping ability also has increased markedly.
“I have been doing a lot of vertical work,” explained Williams. “Having this weight, my legs have to be able to carry it. I’ve been doing a lot of legs, lot of glutes, lots of calves ... really a lot of calves.”
That work really manifested itself during a practice Monday. During a three-on-three drill, DeAundra Murphy tossed a lob from the left corner to Williams, who was streaking toward the rim along the right baseline. The pass looked impossibly high, but, amazingly, Williams went up, caught it with two hands and threw down a monstrous slam dunk.
It was a very, very impressive play.
“I saw that on film,” said Williams with a grin. “I was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ I was saying to myself, ‘Dang, Jannson.’ I was never able to see the improvement in my jumping until I saw that video of me jumping up there. I was never able to get that high because I was so underdeveloped.”
Now, Williams is an integral cog in Marshall’s lineup.
“His improvement will mean a lot as to what we do this coming year,” said D’Antoni. “I’m expecting big things from him because I want to be a good coach. If he does big things, then I’ll be a good coach.”
There really is a method to D’Antoni’s madness.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.