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Closer Look: The Real T-Will

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Filed under Analysis, Big Post, Featured, Hoops, Off the Court.

Closer Look: The Real T-Will

Get an inside look at Sacramento’s newest addition, Terrence Williams. Plus, No. 55 dishes on choosing his Kings jersey number, his on-court versatility and vast sneaker collection.

With each passing game, it becomes more apparent why Terrence Williams – an explosive swingman with the playmaking ability and court vision of an elite floor general – chose to wear No. 55 with the Kings – a jersey number popularized in Sacramento by former show-stopping point guard Jason Williams.

“I’m not trying to be him at all, but as a kid growing up and playing basketball, and my last name being Williams and his being Williams, (I) looked up to him,” explains the third-year forward. “I was definitely a fan of his game, how he played, how he dribbled the ball and controlled the team.

“Now, I just try to bring back a new, modern-day (No.) 55, and I’m not trying to take away from him and what he did. Hopefully, one day, I can bring what he brought to this team for years to come.”

Williams is well on his way to establishing himself in Sacramento – stuffing the stat sheet by averaging 9.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.0 steals in 21.4 minutes per game in seven contests – and impressing his new coach and teammates with his repertoire on both ends of the court.

“He’s a team-first guy, a guy who works hard, and he brings a lot to the table,” says fellow Washington native Isaiah Thomas. “He’s a guy who can do so many things on the floor. I call him like a mini-LeBron (James) because he can pass, he can score, he can rebound and defend, and there aren’t too many guys in this league who can do those things at a high level.”

Kings Coach Keith Smart explains that Williams’ knowledge of the game and superb decision-making has allowed him to thrive as an offensive facilitator and ball-handler in key late-game situations.

“He understands how to play the game, (has a) huge basketball IQ and sees plays before they develop,” says Smart. “He may be driving hard to the basket, but he already knows where his outs are, and that’s pretty unique.”

A devoted student of the game, Williams has made a habit of examining players’ tendencies prior to stepping onto the court and uses the insight to his advantage.

“I study the game before I go in, so (I bring) whatever I learn when I’m on the bench – maybe you see the backdoor is open, maybe the guy is open on the pass when you come off the pick-and-roll,” he says. “So, my mindset is just to do what I just studied from watching the game.”

It hardly comes as a surprise that the multifaceted Williams admired the game of NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson – a revolutionary passer and one of the greatest triple-double threats in NBA history. Possessing the size to play and defend either forward position and the quickness and strength to match up with any guard, No. 55’s versatility and athleticism separate him from many of his peers.

“There are a lot of people who are my size who can’t do (what I do), and a lot of people who are smaller than me who can’t do it, so (I) take pride in that and just try to get better,” he says.

After being selected with the 11th-overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets, Williams immediately showed flashes of his All-Star potential as a rookie, averaging 14.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists over the final 22 games of the season, and finished fifth among first-year players in double-doubles, eighth in rebounds (4.5) and ninth in assists (2.9) per contest.

He recorded a spectacular triple-double against the Chicago Bulls on April 9, 2010, putting up a career-high 27 points, a career-high-tying 13 rebounds and 10 assists, and earned Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors for April.

“(It was) great, because I have lot of friends who played eight or nine years in the NBA and never (tallied a triple-double),” he says. “I think it’s good, but I think it’ll be good to get another one.”

Yet, despite continuing to showcase his all-around game as a sophomore, Williams was assigned to the Nets’ NBA D-League affiliate Springfield Armor and soon traded to the Houston Rockets.

“(I told him) I’m just focused on your relationship growing with me and your relationship growing with our team, and let’s keep it at that,” disclosed Smart upon Williams’ arrival in Sacramento. “We’ll move from there and we’ll create our own storyline with each other, rather than me taking what I’ve heard or what people have said and bring that into what you’re trying to accomplish now.”

Williams believes he has learned from his previous missteps and welcomes the opportunity to have a clean slate in the River City.

“Now (getting) a fresh start with Coach Smart – (I’m going to) just shut up and play basketball,” he says, attributing his previous setbacks to his own immaturity. “If that’s all it takes for my talent to show, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

During his three-game stint in the D-League, the tantalizing guard-forward averaged an eye-opening 28.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 10.7 assists per game, posting a pair of triple-doubles and notching two 30-point games. In the process, he joined exclusive company by recording at least one triple-double in college – tallying two with the Louisville Cardinals – the D-League and NBA.

Not surprisingly, it hasn’t taken long for Williams to make a sizable impact with the Kings and earn increased playing time. In just his second game with the team on March 26, he notched 10 points, three rebounds and two steals against the Rockets, providing a much-needed spark off the bench.

In a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, he grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds to go along with 12 points, three assists and two steals, and posted season-highs in points (16), assists (five) and blocks (two) against the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night.

“(He brings) defense, you know he can pass the ball, he has a real high basketball IQ – he’s the whole package,” says fellow Louisville alum Francisco Garcia, who spent time with Williams during his recruitment visit to the university. “He’s shooting the ball better now – that was the knock on him before, that he couldn’t shoot – but he’s shooting the ball better now.”

Team captain Chuck Hayes, who played alongside Williams in Houston last season, praises Williams for getting his teammates open shots while routinely shutting down his opponent.

“He’s a great defensive player – people don’t really understand that he can guard multiple positions,” says Hayes. “He just moves his feet and has quick hands. (I’m impressed with) his timing, the way he can read plays, his quickness – we need that.”

Williams’ familiarity with nearly every player on Sacramento’s roster from previous teams and workouts has allowed him to make a seamless transition to Northern California.

“It’s wonderful, because instead of walking in here with your tail between your legs, not trying to say anything to somebody, you can have whole conversations with everybody on the team,” he says.

“Off the court is easy – this’ll sound cliché, but we’re all human and we don’t have any problems with each other. On the court is a lot easier than it is off the court, because on the court, I tend to know what guys like to do. I know where they like to shoot, and having the ball most of the time, it’s just my job to find them.”

Williams, who calls Sacramento fans the best in the NBA, has only one future goal in mind – continuing to develop alongside the team’s rising stars.

“(I want) to have a sit-down come July 1 and talk about a long-term deal,” he says. “I’m trying to show that I belong here.”

Free Throws

- Williams’ extensive ties to the Kings extend even further back – he attended the same high school, Rainer Beach in Seattle, as Sacramento fan favorite Doug Christie, and was a teammate of Brad Miller on the Rockets.

– Williams, who helped Rainer Beach win a state basketball title, was also the school’s starting wide receiver and free safety, but he chose to focus on hoops upon arriving on Louisville’s campus.

– The guard-forward encourages Kings fans to connect with him on Twitter by following: @TheRealTWill

And One

– An avid shoe collector, Williams says he has accumulated over a thousand pairs of sneakers since entering the NBA.

“My favorite pair is the black and red Jordan XI’s,” he says. “As a kid, I didn’t have shoes, so I told myself whenever I had money, the first thing I’d buy is a lot of shoes.”

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