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December 11, 2013

Run, Amir, run

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Amir Williams you see on the court this season was forged in the fires of a hot summer and it had little to do with working on his moves in the post, his hook shot or rebounding the basketball better.

Rather, for every instance Williams -- who's seemingly made leaps and bounds since a pedestrian and uninspiring campaign a year ago -- didn't make his mile time during Ohio State's summer conditioning, he'd have to run it again.

And again. And again.

"It was almost a whole summer where it took me to make that mile time," Williams, who insists his new-found level of conditioning is the driving force behind what could be a breakout junior season, said.

Oh, his teammates were forced to expend themselves alongside the 6-foot-11, 250-pound center each time too.

"I vividly remember we had to run a mile every week until Amir made his time so I think everybody inside that locker room might've had something to do with that," said Lenzelle Smith Jr.

"We were tired of running and it was all up to him, we did everything we could, tried intimidation."

Which, according to Williams, didn't do much.

"Intimidation don't work," he said during Tuesday interviews. "I mean, come on now."

What did make his feet move a bit quicker his legs stride a bit further was perhaps a feeling of urgency and the imminence of the juncture facing the McDonald's High School All-American.

"It was gonna be a big season for me. I know I could've played better last season and it just so happens that I didn't, I didn't know what the cause was or whatever but we can't harp too much on the past so I just focused on this season and tried to get better," Williams, who eventually finished the mile at six minutes even, said.

The past, though, is not far removed. After coming to Columbus as a highly-decorated recruit, Williams appeared to do little in his first two seasons to validate such heaping praise.

Playing behind former Ohio State standout and current Boston Celtics power forward Jared Sullinger, his numbers as a freshman were perhaps expectedly low, totaling just 1.7 points and 2.1 rebounds a game. Last year, though, when the show was Williams' to star in, he floundered. The then-sophomore averaged 3.5 point and 3.9 rebounds and seemed to be somewhat of a liability on the floor.

"I said this last night, I think we've probably been a little spoiled around here with a couple of the big guys that we've brought in in terms of you don't get a Greg Oden or a Jared Sullinger walking through the door very often," said coach Thad Matta.

"Nobody does."

Williams, for as much fire as he's shown through the No. 3/2 Buckeyes' 8-0 start, isn't either of those players.

He might not have to be.

"I think I'm probably the most positive person in terms of coaching and I saw from Amir's freshman year to sophomore year, I saw promise. I saw hope," Matta said. "I saw things that I knew if we can get him to do that consistently that he was gonna be a very good player for us."

While it's hard to definitively say if Williams has turned the corner from below average to "very good" in a season still in its infancy, he's averaging 10.5 points and 6.9 rebounds a game for an Ohio State team wrapping up non-conference slate before entering the gauntlet of conference play.

"It's just all a mental thing for me and I think at this point in the season, I've been doing a really good job of it and like I said i just wanna keep it up and continue to make those type of plays, make these type of efforts while I'm on the court," he said.

"Because come January, February, when Big Ten play starts, it's gonna be a nightly thing when you're playing somebody that's probably a top-10 team, top-20 team where you have to make those plays."

And for the Buckeyes, such plays might be difference between making it back to college basketball's mecca or even simply deep into the postseason.

"I did everything for myself, did everything for the team to just try and better myself and do whatever it is because we want to win a national championship. That's our ultimate goal. So if I know I push myself, they'll push themselves."

Ohio State NEWS


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