You are going to like Devin Williams.
Listen up to what he had to say on Wednesday during West Virginia University basketball interviews at the Coliseum while preparing for Friday’s 8 p.m. season opener against Mount St. Mary’s.
“I know there’s not a player in the country that can guard me one-on-one down there as far as I can do,” he said.
Did we mention, Devin Williams is a freshman and has yet to play his first collegiate basketball game?
Oh, did we also mention that he scored four points on Friday night, making one basket against Fairmont State.
Did that worry this rather confident young lad from Cincinnati?
Not in the least.
“The offensive game, I think that is going to take care of itself. That just happened to be an exhibition game, and I was just going out there to see how many rebounds I could grab,” he said.
The box score showed the 6-foot-9 Williams was rather proficient at that, listing him with 14.
“They said I had 14, but I counted 15,” he corrected, not at all kidding about it.
And no, that he picked off 15 rebounds didn’t surprise him one iota.
“I wasn’t surprised. I played at Montverde Academy, and we had some real good talented guys, top in the country, and getting a chance to play with them and getting the feeling of what it’s like to have to work and seeing it pay off, I’ve been doing it. It’s no problem,” he said.
And that last statement is the tipoff about why, as confident as this freshman is, you are going to have trouble finding him hard to stomach.
See, he understands that you have to work to be good, and he’s willing to work really hard at it because he’s so strongly driven to succeed.
Asked if his goals this year are to be in the top 10 or 15 in rebounding, he didn’t think much of that.
“No. 1,” he answered. “Everything I do I do to be No. 1. I want to be known in the Big 12 or in the country for being a hard-working freshman who has a motor and is tough.”
You can’t knock that.
And because of this attitude, he isn’t even intimidated by coach Bob Huggins, who jumped him pretty good during the Fairmont State game when he allowed his man an easy basket.
“For me, sometimes it might get to me, but for the most part you take what he’s trying to say,” Williams said. “That’s more important than the volume of his voice. When he’s hollering at me, like when I let that guy score the other night, he was like ‘This is major college basketball! This is major college basketball!’
“I’m taking it in like, ‘This is major college basketball.’ He isn’t trying to downgrade me. It’s just criticism. It’s good stuff. He’s trying to help you. When he’s yelling at you, you’ve got to respect it because he knows what he’s talking about because he’s been around for 30-some years.”
That is wisdom beyond freshman years, wisdom to go with the talent he possesses.
Williams understands that WVU is shorthanded with only nine scholarship players and that it’s really short up front.
“He’s just told me I’ve got to hit the boards. I guess that means 10-plus every night. I think I will contribute a lot on the offensive side, though. That will take care of itself because I’ve got Wannie (Juwan Staten) and Eron (Harris) and Terry (Henderson) and a lot of threats on the perimeter,” he said.
“They are going to have to guard them. After a while, they will have to pick their poison. I’ll let the offense handle itself. I’ll just try to get 10-plus boards every night.”
That will be approaching it like it’s major college basketball.
Someone asked Williams if there was a difference between a guy who can rebound and a guy who wants to rebound, probing to see if Williams believed that the desire to do the job is more important that the ability.
Again, his answer wasn’t what you expected to hear from a kid.
“It’s all one. Like Huggs says, it’s what you want to do. If you want to go get that rebound, go get it.
“I want to score. I just want to rebound more and improve on defensive skills. It’s going to happen.
“It’s going to be tough, bumps and bruises along the way, because I’m a freshman and I’m still learning, but at the end of the day I feel like I’m going to keep getting better,” he said.
And don’t be fooled if Williams sounds a little me-first in some of the things he says.
“If I help myself individually, it will help the team,” he said.
And, believe it or not, he is a team-first guy, but one with vision like any kid that comes to college toward his future, but while a lot of academic kids are looking for an MBA in their futures, he’s looking for the NBA.
“Like I said, there’s going to be some ups and downs, but this is where I’m going to get my money,” he said. “Someday I want to play in the league. I have to deal with a little hard stuff. I don’t mind. I don’t mind. Guys are doing dirty work and getting paid millions to do it in the league.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.
You are going to like Devin Williams.
- Bob Herzel
HERTZEL COLUMN: Huggins just wants WVU to compete
In the end, with Bob Huggins, they count victories and losses, and he has always been one to pile up the victories while keeping the losses to a minimum, at least until the last two seasons at West Virginia University.
And, in the end, when he tries to analyze why the losses have come rather than the victories, he comes to understand that he just doesn’t have the manpower to compete.
Carey, Bussie headline Big 12 awards
To the victors go the spoils, and West Virginia University’s newly crowned Big 12 women’s basketball regular-season co-champions certainly took down their share of the conference’s post-season awards, headed by coach Mike Carey and senior center Asya Bussie.
Oklahoma pulls away from WVU, 72-62
Reality hit West Virginia University in the gut Wednesday as No. 23 Oklahoma showed the Mountaineers almost every reason why they are not an NCAA Tournament team this year, pulling away in the second half to a 72-62 victory in Norman.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Lady Mountaineers will always remember their senior season
Taylor Palmer was following a much-traveled path when she packed up her gym shoes four years ago and left Mount Vernon, N.Y., for Morgantown to play basketball.
Lowes Moore and Kevin Jones had both done the same thing and become two of the greatest players West Virginia University had ever produced, each not only playing the game the way it should be played but living life the way it should be lived.
Bradley to give everyone a chance
A day after snubbing the local media by not talking to them on an evening set aside for interviews with assistant coaches, West Virginia University’s latest defensive savior Tom Bradley found 14 minutes to talk to IMG Sports, which possesses the rights to West Virginia sports.
WVU women clinch share of Big 12 title
West Virginia University’s women’s basketball team had just defeated Kansas, 67-60, to lay claim to a share of the Big 12 championship with Baylor on Tuesday night in the Coliseum, and someone had to sum up the feeling for the five seniors who had made the program grow to championship status.
That someone was Christal Caldwell.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Carey sends seniors out the right way
West Virginia women’s coach Mike Carey had just completed putting the finishing touches on cutting down the net, which came moments after he had almost dropped the Big 12 Conference regular-season championship, and now he was standing in front of the media.
Road to NCAA begins tonight for Mountaineers
While they would choose not to believe that it is necessary, it appears the only route West Virginia University has left to the NCAA Tournament – save a miracle run in the Big 12 Tournament to the tournament championship – is to run the table through its final two regular-season games.
New coaches bring different dynamic to WVU
Tom Bradley, the veteran former Penn State assistant coach, had a million reasons to leave a broadcasting job with the Pittsburgh Steelers and take on a job as senior associate head coach under Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia University.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Squires comes from swimming background
It was a weekend to remember, to be sure, and would have been even without the snow.
- More Bob Herzel Headlines
- HERTZEL COLUMN: Huggins just wants WVU to compete