Elliot Williams finally having an impact for Duke
Posted February 22, 2009
Elliot Williams was the most highly touted freshman to walk on Duke’s campus this past year, but you wouldn’t have known it through the Devils’ first 25 games or so.
Playing very few minutes in most games and sometimes not at all in ACC play, Williams was in danger of becoming the latest Blue Devil five-star recruit to be relegated to college basketball insignificance.
And then there was the St. John’s game - Williams’ first start in a game that mattered, which was apparently preceeded by a solid week of practice.
The first-year player out of Memphis scored 11 points on 5-6 shooting in 31 minutes, all career bests on the college level.
More importantly, after a few opening-minute jitters, he didn’t turn the ball over or get lost on defense off the ball.
Williams showed Duke fans, and more importantly, the Blue Devils’ coaching staff, that he could be trusted in important situations, as a win against a lesser team on what amounts to a second home floor at Madison Square Garden, was a must for the reeling Devils.
Now, could he do it in the ACC?
After his game against Wake Forest Sunday night, the answer, after one game at least, is a resounding yes.
Sure, the sample size is small, but the game against arguably the ACC’s most talented team was possibly Duke’s most important of the season to date – and number 20 was on the floor for the opening tip, and the final seconds.
They say it’s not about who starts games, but who finishes them – well, Williams did both against Wake, and his production during the minutes in between was pretty solid as well.
His final stat line shows that he tied his career high with 11 points, but it’s the steals column that will have Duke fans, coaches and teammates excited.
Against the conference’s best ball-handling duo of Jeff Teague and Ishmael Smith, Williams had four steals, most of which took place during a stretch in the first half that helped Duke jump out to a huge lead.
Picking off inbounds passes and picking the pockets of unsuspecting ball handlers, Williams again showed he belonged, and this time it was on a much larger stage.
Teague and Smith combined for 40 points on the night, but that was only because with both on the court simultaneously, Williams could only guard one of them at a time.
Duke’s depth is still limited, but for much of the season, its athleticism was even more of a weakness.
If Elliot Williams can continue to be the player he was against Wake Forest, Duke will have to worry less about both.