Brian Williams' return to Cowboys has been big
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Saturday, March 02, 2013
3/02/13 at 7:44 AM
STILLWATER - After Brian Williams was declared out for the season with an injury, he was among six Oklahoma State players brought to the team's media day in October.
"He's going to have a role on this basketball team this year," coach Travis Ford said then.
Ford was correct, but Williams' role hasn't been what he expected at that point.
Since healing and rehabbing sooner than anticipated, Williams has returned to become a key contributor for the Cowboys. In the past five games, the Oklahoma State sophomore is averaging 19 minutes off the bench.
"It's great seeing him get back into the rhythm of things, grinding it out in practice," teammate Michael Cobbins said. "I'm just happy for him to be back there on the court with me and able to do what he loves to do."
After a redshirt freshman year in which he started the final 20 games, Williams was ready to be a leader of a young Cowboys squad. But three weeks before the season opener, he fell on his left wrist after a dunk in practice.
With Williams sustaining torn ligaments and a fracture, Ford believed the injury was season-ending and planned to redshirt Williams. But with each doctor visit came good news, and in December it became apparent he could return to action by the season's end.
In January, OSU could have used him. Watching his team fall at Kansas State while letting Rodney McGruder score 26 points in the second half was unbearable and perhaps motivation to work harder at getting back.
But it hasn't been easy.
"When I first got back and started practicing, I was not where I wanted to be," Williams said. "I was kind of out of shape. My shots weren't falling. I wasn't defending like I wanted to.
"But every week has gotten a little bit better, and today it's almost where I was when I finished the season last year. I'm feeling really confident about my progress."
A defensive specialist who says he could have shut down McGruder, Williams also has been contributing on offense since returning a month ago.
His six straight points against Baylor came at a crucial moment of the overtime win, and last week against West Virginia he scored 13 while helping fill a void caused by point guard Marcus Smart's first-half foul trouble.
"He's still not back to where he was last season, and last season he was definitely our best perimeter defender," Ford said. "But he's getting back.
"He brings us some great energy and some experience. He's a sophomore, but he played a lot last year."
Two of Williams' best outings as a freshman came against Texas, which OSU faces Saturday in Stillwater. In the first meeting he led the team with 16 points, and in the other he had a career-high six steals and three blocks.
For a team whose first focus is on defense, the addition of Williams has been another piece that's fallen into place during OSU's stretch of nine wins in 10 games.
"Brian is one of our best defenders," Smart said. "He's quick with his feet. He's active with his hands. He has the right body type to guard anybody."
And that's while not being fully recovered.
"He's still a work in progress," Smart said. "The wrist isn't 100 percent, but he wasn't even supposed to be here yet. He's earlier than he was supposed to be, so that's a blessing."
Original Print Headline: Return of Williams a blessing for Cowboys
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