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Williams: "I'd rather just be a playmaker"



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Sophomore forward Troy Williams passes the ball during practice Thursday at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. Ben Mikesell and Ben Mikesell

OMAHA, Neb. — Troy Williams loves to dunk, that’s no secret.

It appears to be his great joy on the basketball court, to find a rim and shove a ball through it. Nothing can stand in his way: not opposing defenders, not photographers underneath the basket, not even the occasional charge call.

A typical Troy Williams dunk ends one way. The sophomore forward screams, struts and sometimes stares down his opponent as the basket shakes and tries to recover.

That’s fun, Williams said, but dunks are worth only two points. What he loves most is creating shots for his teammates.

“I would say more than dunking would be making an extra pass to my teammates and my shooters … and seeing them hit a 3,” Williams said. “That’s what else gets us going.”

At times this season, the 6-foot-7 Williams has taken over IU’s ballhandling duties. It started in the Hoosiers’ game against Georgetown in New York City, when Williams became the de facto point guard in the second half. The move transformed IU’s offense, and Williams’ confidence appeared to grow from there.

This season, Williams doubled his assist total from last year, lowering his turnover rate in the process.

“Definitely since I’ve been working out over the summer into now, I can see more,” Williams said earlier this season. “I don’t just have the tunnel vision to the rim. I can see the whole court.”

IU’s ballhandling duties still fall primarily to guards Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson, but IU Coach Tom Crean can get those three off-ball looks by handing control of the offense to his hyperathletic wing. That versatility helped make IU the Big Ten’s most effective offense this season.

It could also help evade Wichita State’s biggest weapon in IU’s NCAA Tournament opener Friday.

With Wichita State’s backcourt of Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton expected to pressure IU’s guards, Williams’ newfound ballhanding abilities could work even more in the Hoosiers’ favor.

The Shockers like to pressure the ball, using pure defensive intensity to force opposing teams into mistakes.

“They will make it hard, they will make it hard for us to score,” Crean said. “We fully expect to be pressured, and certainly as a coach that’s a concern because I think their pressure is really good.”

Crean could alleviate some of that pressure by shifting the ball into Williams’ hands and letting him run the offense, giving guards like Ferrell a quick break off the ball.

The key to that comes in finding a balance between Williams the playmaker and Williams the baseline space-finder and leading rebounder. When Williams runs the offense, he generally does it from the top of the key. Situating him there takes him out of rebounding position, which could only worsen IU’s already troubled efforts on the glass.

Crean didn’t say whether Williams would see more of the ball Friday, but he did say the versatility of his roster makes altering the gameplan on the fly possible.

“It really hasn’t been that hard to change at all,” Crean said.

In a game that could be decided by which team’s trio of guards takes control, Williams could be IU’s change of pace.

It’s something Williams said he’s comfortable doing. He may love to dunk, but he loves winning more.

“I’d rather just be a playmaker,” he said. “Be a basketball player.”

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