There might not be a more controversial player on Ohio State's roster than senior center Amir Williams. After a run of Ohio State big men that included Greg Oden, Kosta Koufos, Byron Mullens and Jared Sullinger, all of whom made the NBA, McDonald's All-American Amir Williams was supposed to follow in that tradition. Instead, he's been inconsistent, occasionally checks out of games, fails to catch the ball in the post, and sometimes lets smaller players push him around. On the other hand, Williams has also been an effective rim protector, shoots free throws fairly well for a nearly seven-footer, and has improved every season.
Is he as bad as fans on Twitter make him out to be? What can he be this season? Let's take a closer look.
A Look Back:
Williams played in every game last season, notching career highs in minutes, and virtually every other statistical category. Over the season, he posted 7.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.8 blk, over 23.1 mpg. He also shot .651% from the free throw line, , and .598% from the field, which aren't bad lines at all.
Against some of weaker teams outside of the Big Ten, Williams not only protected the rim, he was a legitimate option on offense. Amir tossed in 16 points in a closer-than-expected win over American University, 18 against North Florida, and 13 in a come from behind win over Notre Dame. Once Big Ten play started, Amir's offensive production faded away, and occasionally, so did his minutes. Perhaps the low point was Ohio State's upset 65-63 loss at Penn State, where foul trouble limited Williams to only 12 minutes, two points, and a single rebound.
Outlook for 2014-2015:
Love him or hate him, Ohio State needs Amir Williams this season. He's never going to be a primary scoring option in this offense, and he doesn't really have to be. Williams doesn't take stupid shots and hits free throws at a reasonable clip. If his offensive numbers stay relatively the same as last year, that's probably fine for Ohio State basketball.
Williams needs to do two things for Ohio State to be successful. He needs to protect the rim, something that he's actually pretty good at, and he needs to stay on the court. Right now, Anthony Lee is probably most effective playing with Amir rather than as a center with Williams on the bench, and Lee's range and rebounding ability can complement some of the decencies in Williams' game. If he can do those things well and consistently, he should be doing his job just fine.
Best Case Scenario:
Williams continues his modest improvement schedule, averaging around eight points and six boards a game. His ability to catch the ball in the paint improves, he becomes one of the better shot blockers in the Big Ten, and most importantly, is able to stay on the court long enough to give the Buckeyes lineup flexibility throughout the season. Williams rides a strong November and December campaign into his best Big Ten season yet, anchoring the paint well enough to get a late second round draft choice at the end of the season.
Worst Case Scenario:
For the team? That'd probably be Amir getting hurt, forcing the Buckeyes to give more minutes to Trey McDonald, or to have Anthony Lee out of position. Amir could also regress, becoming a turnover-prone ballstopper in the offense, while allowing smaller players to box him out and put him out of position on defense. Twitter crashes after thousands of Buckeye fans tweet "DAMMIT AMIR" every time a Michigan State player grabs a rebound, even if it isn't his fault.