Williams Gaining Confidence as a Gym Rat for WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Williams Gaining Confidence as a Gym Rat for WVU

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MORGANTOWN -

Bob Huggins has considered his team to be proficient on the perimeter this season, despite the deficiencies from the field in a loss to Purdue.

He has reason to believe so, with his team shooting 47 percent on the season and 41 percent from behind the arc. Where he needs improvement, though, is on the interior. Sunday's game was an example of where he could get it with the way Devin Williams performed against the Boilermakers.

The freshman forward turned in the fourth double double of his young career with 20 points and 12 rebounds and he provided the scoring in a number of ways. He finished the game 6-of-12 from the field with four baskets on layups and dunks and another four points coming from jumpers.

That aspect of his game – taking on a defender, sizing him up and shooting over him – is one that has earned him both praise and criticism from his coaches and teammates.

"I don't have bad shot selection," said Williams. "I don't take a lot of jump shots, but when I do, it's more of the time of the game. It's probably 30 [seconds] on the clock [rather than] 15 seconds on the clock. It's just knowing when to take that shot because all of the shots that I'm taking will be there later in the game."

Williams is learning that lesson, and many others, from WVU assistant coach Erik Martin. Now in his seventh year coaching alongside Huggins for the Mountaineers, Martin works with the post players and sees Williams as an athlete full of potential that hasn't yet been realized.

He says he will come into the gym after practice and see Williams working on his jump shot and because of that, the staff has confidence that he can take and make them in a game setting. The problem is that there are times when he should be playing a different role, and that's a message he tries getting across to the 6-foot-9 freshman.
"Dev, I don't have a problem with you shooting those shots, but if you're going to shoot those shots, who's going to get the offensive rebound?" Martin asks his rookie. "I'm not telling you not to shoot, but you've got to pick and choose when you decide to step out because I need you down low. If you're not averaging a double double, we're going to struggle in the Big 12."

The best part about a message like that is Martin knows Williams takes it to heart. He listens, sure, but he also seeks out instruction, which can sometimes be a struggle 

"Devin's getting better and better and better," said Huggins. "Devin cares, you know? Devin has struggled at the foul line, so he in turn went in and spent a ton of time and he listens, he tries to do what you ask him to do. Dev will continue to get better because he wants to."

Yes, Williams even connected from the free throw line. A 47 percent free throw shooter before Sunday, he had made just 27 of his 57 attempts coming into the game. He missed just once against Purdue.

His 8-of-9 performance at the line was an indication of how hard he had worked on that aspect of his game, knowing that if his minutes continued to stay up, teams would attack his weakness and take away his jumper or his layups in favor of free throws.

"As a worker playing the basketball game, you want consistent effort or consistent play, you have to just continue to get in the gym," said Williams. "Probably a couple of weeks ago, I'd say I finally found my focus and my rhythm and I'm trying to stay a gym rat."

Williams says when he is tired and just wants to let his body rest, he finds himself picking up a basketball and getting back in the gym. His mentality toward the game and the amount of work it takes to prepare at this level has changed over the course the season.

The improvement is evident in his performance against Purdue, but Huggins warns that it can be difficult to judge freshmen as they have a tendency to be up one week and down the next.

Sophomore guard Eron Harris believes Williams is much closer to have more and more up weeks than he is to being down.

"Devin always works hard," said Harris. "He's still learning because he's young. He's got to listen to some of the older guys, but by the end of this year, this guy's going to be, I'm thinking first or second team All-Big 12 because he contributes so much to our team." 

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