Every team, no matter the sport, needs guys willing to play above their athletic ability to provide key minutes to help their team win. Michigan football has a few, starting with center Andrew Vastardis and right tackle Andrew Stueber — in the past, U-M basketball has gotten it from guys like Zack Novak.
This year’s version might well be sophomore Terrance Williams, the self-proclaimed ‘Junkyard Dog’ willing to do anything and everything to see the court. Though he didn’t play a ton last year (1.9 points, 2.2 rebounds in 7.4 minutes per game), Williams provided the spark that helped lead Michigan past Oakland University early in the year, avoiding a potentially embarrassing upset, and provided key minutes in an NCAA Tournament win over LSU.
His teammates might be biased, especially good friend and sophomore center Hunter Dickinson, but they see a much-improved player ready to provide key minutes this year.
Juwan Howard: “We’ve Had Good Practices”
“This is the best I’ve seen T-Will in his career,” Dickinson said at Michigan’s Media Day Oct. 15. “… You know what you’re going to get out of him, and he’s not going to mess up too much. He and [fifth-year senior guard] Eli Brooks are similar in that way. I think he’ll be able to help us out a lot this year because of his versatility.”
His offense has taken a huge leap, Dickinson added. Williams made only one of 12 triples last year, but he’s made them at a much better clip this summer and in the early going at practice.
“He’s got that Carmelo [Anthony] game where he’s just able to make tough shots,” Dickinson said. “Having a hand in his face really doesn’t bother him. I think that’s one of his best attributes, to be able to hit tough shots, and he’s been able to do that a lot this year.”
But it’s doing it in games that matters, and that will ultimately decide how many minutes Williams sees among a loaded roster. Always known as a ‘high IQ player,’ he understands he needs to make shots in order to earn more minutes.
The good news — he can, and he’s proven it at the high school level. It’s about believing in himself, he said, and he’s made huge strides.
“Last year, as a freshman, I really wasn’t that confident,” he admitted. “I worked on it and was still in the gym a lot, but after I missed a couple, I started overthinking a lot. It’s that freshman mindset — ‘I don’t want to mess up and make mistakes when I come in the game.’
“Now, [head coach Juwan Howard] is letting me play a little bit more free. He’s not really saying a lot on my jump shot because it has been forming a lot in practice … and it’s more just repetitions. I feel like, and all the coaches feel like, it really wasn’t mechanics. I had a good base. It’s more picking up reps for me, continuously flicking the wrist so it’s never really short. I shot a lot of threes last year, and my jump shots in general were just short.”
Not anymore — at least, not lately.
Part of it, too, was that he was easily tired after going after it between dead ball timeouts. He’d run out of energy, which affected his stamina and his probably his form on his jumper.
He took steps to correct that in the offseason, too.
“I felt like I was tired after three minutes, four minutes of coming into the game. I was like, ‘Nah — this can’t happen next year,’ because I feel like I’m going to play more and I’m going to need to get in better shape,” he said. … It’s all paying off now. I feel lighter and I’m moving way better.”
To the point that he’s able to play three different positions on the floor. He might see time on the wing if he continues to improve his handle, but he’s still strong enough to play power forward (his preferred position) or center, if asked.
“I’m still trying to get into a flow, playing with different lineups in practice — not just with set lineups. It’s whatever the coaches need on the court, I’m going to try to fill that role,” he said. “Whether it’s scoring, whether it’s me playing the ‘3’ or the ‘4,’ I just feel like I fit any type of role and I’m going to continue to work on that.”It’s just repetition.”
And no matter what, he’s always going to bring it on both ends of the floor. He’s earned his ‘junkyard dog’ nickname and can’t wait to prove it again this year.
“I’m going to continue to carry that throughout the years. I think I’ve been doing it in high school, as well,” he said. “Just playing that type of way, always playing hard whenever I’m on the court.
“I feel that translates … middle school, high school, college now. I’m going to keep doing that and keep saying that — I feel like I am a junkyard dog.”
One whose rabid for a title and willing to do what it takes to get it, no matter his role.