The men’s basketball season preview rolls on as we look at Louisville’s Malik Williams. In his two seasons at the Ville, Williams has established himself as a starting caliber front court player who can affect the game on both ends of the floor. He showed impressive growth as a sophomore and is looking to make an even larger impact as a junior. This is a Louisville team that enters the year with no shortage of high expectations. Ahead of the 2019-2020 season, there are plenty of lofty expectations for Malik Williams individually.
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Hometown: Fort Wayne, IN / Snider
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Williams joined the Louisville men’s basketball program as a freshman in 2017. He was ranked as highly as a top 30 prospect by multiple recruiting outlets, and was the highest rated recruit from the 2017 class to play a game for the Cards. As a Freshman, Williams started 12 games yet never saw 20 minutes of action in any of his 32 appearances. He averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. After playing a consistent bench role throughout the majority of the season, Williams did not play more than eight minutes in any of the final 10 games and saw no action in three of them.
As a sophomore, Williams made a jump in nearly every statistic. In 34 games and 20 starts, Malik averaged 7.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while playing 18.2 minutes per game . Williams made strides offensively, but impressed the most in his ability around the rim on both ends. During his freshman season, Williams made a reputation for himself as someone who maybe stayed on the perimeter too much and settled for jump shots. He responded in 2018-2019 by shooting over twice as many two pointers and over five times as many free throws than he did as a freshman while only shooting 20 more three pointers in almost twice as many minutes per game. He had double digit rebounds in five games, and was the fourth most valuable offensive rebounder in ACC play, per KenPom. There were still some moments of frustration watching Williams as a sophomore, but overall he showed growth in just about every aspect of his game compared to year 1.
Williams will be sidelined to start his Junior season with a foot injury that was suffered in September. The original timetable was 6-8 weeks and the expectation is that he will return sometime during the month of November. He was selected as one of three team captains, the only junior alongside seniors Ryan McMahon and Dwayne Sutton.
Last season, he did not play too often as a forward. With the lack of overall front court depth, Williams would mostly play as a center when Steven Enoch was not on the floor. This season, with the addition of Aidan Igiehon who can play a similar role to Enoch, that frees up some time for Williams to potentially get more minutes at the traditional 4.
Chris Mack has spoken about how he wants to free up more space for Williams to operate on offense. His shooting touch makes the opposing defense respect him on the perimeter. Although, he was often playing alongside 4 guards and wings last season, causing more of a cluster in the half court. Playing next to a more traditional center this season could give Williams an opportunity to really evolve his offensive game and make another scoring jump.
You still expect him to play some minutes as a traditional center this year. Williams established himself as Louisville’s most valuable interior defender last season and should only be better on that end with another season to get stronger under the second year staff. He came to Louisville with virtually no post moves and has continued to work on his ability to score at the rim.
He is someone who still has plenty to iron out in terms of his overall skill set, but right now is a unique player on this team that can be valuable as ever if the coaching staff can figure out how to use him in the right way. He has started plenty of games during his career to date. Right now the starting lineup is unclear, but I expect we will see Williams as a starter once he returns back to 100% health.