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November 21, 2013

Amid shooting woes, Amir a force

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After Ohio State's modest and somewhat sloppy win against American, Amir Williams sat with his head buried in the final stat sheet.

With his arms bowed in a manner that accentuated his massive wingspan, the 6-foot-11, 250-pound center carefully read it and used his finger to guide his eyes through the piece of paper littered with data and figures.

Of course, Williams saw his own name and, next to it, a heaping of numbers that featured a career-high 16 points in addition to seven rebounds.

It might be the latest example of a larger trend highlighting what could be the former McDonald's All-American's coming of age.

And for Williams, who is averaging 9.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game this season, such new-found morale and determination starts from within.

"It's confidence and once I see that ball go in the basket then, like any other player would, you want the ball again and go try to make another basket," he said. "It's a confidence thing, you want to continue to work on it, continue to work your craft."

The Detroit native indeed saw the ball go in plenty on a night where the rest of his team struggled.

"We had 13 shots we missed at halftime that were right in the paint and it was a little deja vu of up there Saturday in terms of putting the ball in the bucket," said Ohio State coach Thad Matta. "Thank goodness, Amir got us off to a pretty decent start there and was making some shots."

In fact, Williams, who averaged a petty 3.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last year, was about the only intrepid force in a first half that saw Ohio State shoot just 27 percent from the floor, including a 2-of-16 start.

The center had eight of his team's 28 points at intermission.

"I've just been working my tail off in the offseason, during practice as well, just trying to have some go-to moves in the post and it's looking like it's finally starting to come alive a little bit more," he said.

"I'm starting to play with a lot more confidence and I'm making moves in the post and I just hope I can keep the confidence up and continue to make those moves, continue to get those baskets in the post, continue to make those baskets down low for my team so I can help them night in and night out."

So far, Williams seems to find himself in a tussle with trying to become a player of such consistency.

Against Ohio on Nov. 12, the center notched his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. But in contests against Morgan State and Marquette, he didn't appear as impressive, totaling a combined eight points and 10 rebounds.

Matta, though, said Williams is on a path that might give Ohio State (4-0) some stability in the paint.

"He's been more energized, more aggressive. He's been practicing very well, he's been dominant in practice," he said.

"And I think guys are starting to get a sense of good thing are gonna happen and, you know, the great thing was you saw him tonight: he was catching, he was checking his reads. He knew where guys were supposed to be and going and making his moves. I thought his patience was really good as well."

Which, according to Matta, is all fine and dandy. The key, however, seems to be maintaining that type of relentless, disciplined conduct.

"He's got to continue to challenge himself every day in practice. He's got to bring that element of, 'I gotta get better, I gotta get better.' And everything that we're doing, he's got to keep embracing and what happens is sometimes guys -- and this is what I don't want to happen to him -- they have some success and they back off as opposed to attacking it," he said.

"I think that's the things that's always separated the great players that I've coached. They're never satisfied and they want to continue to grow, they want to continue to add things to their game and I hope that's where his mind is right now."

Matta and the Buckeyes have a long season to find out.



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