Everyone wants to impress his or her boss on the first day. After his first time in a collegiate game situation, freshman forward Johnathan Williams III got a one-word performance review from Missouri coach Frank Haith.
Williams impressed Haith and 2,099 fans at Mizzou Arena, scoring eight points and grabbing 11 boards at the annual Black and Gold scrimmage Tuesday night.
He impressed Haith so much that the freshman could start early in his college career.
“I could see J three being our starting (power forward), not that I put a premium on starting, but he does all the little things,” Haith said. “He plays so hard, he’s always in the gym, but as you can see, he’s got a knack for rebounding the ball, he’s got great instincts, and he can score a little bit. J three is a nice player.”
Williams said he likes the idea of starting, but isn’t focused on whether his name is announced before the game.
“To be honest, it’s going to be a blessing, but first of all, I just have to keep focused, stay humble,” Williams said.
The freshman not only caught praise from his coach, but from his older peers, as well. Junior guard Jordan Clarkson said the performances by Williams and sophomore forward Ryan Rosburg stood out.
“Both of those dudes were big on the boards,” Clarkson, who scored 19 points, said.
The older teammates don’t just praise Williams, they help him as well. Senior forward Tony Criswell gave up his No. 3 jersey for Williams and helps him adjust to the college game.
“He pushes me every day in practice, and we try to help each other every day, on and off the court, just talking to each other, helping each other out,” Williams said. “He’s a great guy. He pushes me, so I look up to him.”
One of the benefits of being pushed is certainly hard work. Williams said the transition from high school to college is eased by hard work.
“Coming from high school to college, the more comfortable you get, the better you play,” Williams said. “And it’s all about being comfortable in the system and just playing hard. That’s all you have to do in college basketball is just play hard.”
Williams excelled in both the point and rebound departments Tuesday, leading the entire all players in boards and finishing fourth on the Black team in scoring.
Although some big men take pride in putting up points or leading the team in scoring, Williams said he doesn’t favor one over the other.
“To be honest, I just play the game,” Williams said. “I just try to do whatever I can to help my team.”
It wasn’t just those two categories though. Williams led all players in blocks with two, both on junior forward Danny Feldmann.
“I told him I’d apologize after the game,” Williams said as he laughed.