Shaun Williams wasn’t asked to do much last season.
Williams, then a true freshman guard, was part of a senior-laden Kansas State men’s basketball roster, which leaned on the trio of Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade to do most of the heavy lifting. To a lesser extent, the Wildcats counted on Makol Mawien, Xavier Sneed, Cartier Diarra and Mike McGuirl.
So Williams — who then went by Neal-Williams, but has since dropped the former name — found minutes where he could. He finished last season averaging 7.1 minutes per game, which rose to 9.1 minutes per contest once Big 12 play began. And his per-game averages don’t jump off the page: 1.4 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists. With its decorated senior trio departed, however, Williams’ numbers surely will improve this upcoming season.
But first, he has to find his niche.
“I think he’s got to figure out (who) he is when you talk about roles,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said in his most recent meeting with media members Sept. 26, the day after the team began preseason practices. “He wants the ball, but Carti wants it, too, and Xavier wants it.”
Scoring came easily for Williams during his time at Hazelwood Central High School in Florissant, Mo., pouring in more than 1,200 points. As a senior, he averaged a team-best 16.7 points per game while connecting on 46.3% (156-of-337) of his attempts. He also grabbed 5.4 rebounds, dished out 4.8 assists and snatched 2.2 steals per contest that season on his way to earning a spot on the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association (MBCA) Class 5 All-State team for the second time in as many years.
Yet if Williams has to cede to letting Diarra, and potentially highly touted true freshman DaJuan Gordon and junior college All-American David Sloan, handle the ball more often, some of his other skills must come to the fore.
“Can you do some other things? Can you guard?” Weber said. “He’s got the size. He’s got the body. He’s a great passer.”
To take the next step, Weber said Williams will have to solve an internal struggle.
“I think sometimes — and you see this in a lot of kids — they fight themselves,” Weber said. “They want to do too much. Just be good, be solid.”
Weber made sure to note that he isn’t singling Williams out in this regard. He has to remind both Diarra and Sneed — expected to be two of the team’s top players this season along with Mawien — that staying within themselves and majoring on the minors is paramount.
“I talk to Carti all the time about, ‘Dominate simple. If you dominate simple, you’re going to be a really good player,’ because he’s so physically gifted,” Weber said. “It’s the same thing with Xavier. You know, step-back (jumpers) are fine and all that stuff, but hey, just be really good at all the little stuff, and when we need a shot at the end of the shot clock, hit your step-back. I’ll be happy. But do all the other stuff along the way.”