Making a ‘meaner guy’ out of Johnathan Williams III

“I yelled at him tonight,” coach Kim Anderson said. “I said, ‘You’ve got to stop being such a nice guy. You’ve got to be a meaner guy.’ We need that.”
Missouri Tigers forward Johnathan Williams III (3) in action Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri. Missouri beat Valparaiso 56-41. Maneater File Photo

Johnathan Williams III has one crucial downfall, according to Missouri men’s basketball coach Kim Anderson.

He’s just too nice.

It was easy to see when his 6-foot-9-inch frame humbly walked into the postgame press conference after Mizzou’s win over Southeast Missouri State on Dec. 2. His more relaxed look — glasses and a t-shirt — better suit his quiet personality, equipped with a voice so soft it’s hard to hear even with the microphone.

Anderson couldn’t help but smile when talking about the freshman.

“He’s such a great kid,” Anderson said.

Those positive feelings weren’t as evident when Missouri walked into the locker room at halftime, trailing SEMO by six points. The sophomore forward had just three rebounds, and was failing to make himself a physical presence on the floor.

Williams was shooting 2-5 from field goals and made just two free throws in five attempts.

“I yelled at him tonight,” Anderson said. “I said, ‘You’ve got to stop being such a nice guy. You’ve got to be a meaner guy.’”

Williams finished the game with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

That “mean guy” presence has been missing for Missouri all season. Forwards Ryan Rosburg and Keanau Post have struggled to make a strong offensive impact while Williams has been hurt for the past few weeks with his knee. The big men average just 4.29 and 3.14 points per game, respectively, with 8.79 rebounds per game combined.

At times Williams can be hesitant to drive to the rim with as much strength as his huge 225-pound body can potentially muster. The sophomore’s strength is using his frame to get inside and find scoring opportunities, something SEMO coach Dickey Nutt pointed out.

“He’s just so long and lanky and he can get to places with one dribble,” Nutt said. “He was a tough matchup for us — especially when we got into foul trouble.”

A little bit of that toughness did manifest itself in the second half when the forward drove to the rim and accidentally knocked over a cameraman. A reporter in the postgame press conference pointed out that Williams didn’t try to help him up.

Anderson laughed, almost in shock.

“That’s a first,” he said.

Williams said he is trying to put Anderson’s advice into practice more often.

If he has to be the tough guy on the court, odds are Williams won’t change too much off the court. In the postgame press conference, Williams’ humility showed once more.

The sophomore portrayed such a sense of genuineness when crediting his coach for the complete turnaround night he had. Williams’ faint voice barely reached the microphone.

“I want to say thanks to coach Anderson for pushing me,” he said.

His gray-haired mentor on the other side of the table just smiled.

“You’re welcome,” Anderson said.

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