LOS ANGELES — Demetric Williams has more career wins than any other Wichita State basketball player past or present, but lately he’s been adding to that total without much involvement.
Williams, after starting the majority of WSU’s regular-season games and all games in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, has come off the bench in all three of the Shockers’ NCAA Tournament contests.
A combination of two factors have contributed to Williams’ diminished role. First, he hasn’t been healthy for months — as he sat in WSU’s locker room Friday he had ice on his left knee and was nursing injuries to his left hip and surgically repaired left ankle.
The emergence of Ron Baker, who returned from his own lower-body injury — a stress fracture in his left foot — has also pushed Williams down the depth chart. Now Williams, who played 33 minutes as recently as March 9, has settled into playing about 15 or 20.
At another point in the season, playing less might bother Williams. As a senior in late March for a team playing in the Elite Eight, Williams recognizes that sacrifice is part of his job.
"My whole thing is accustomed to winning," Williams said. "Doing whatever I need to do to help this team. I’ve been in a lot of situations since I’ve been there. This is another situation that I have to overcome, and do what I need to do to help the team."
Williams, a 6-foot-2 guard, is the only current Shocker who has played four years at WSU. He’s been there as WSU progressed from its status as also-ran prior to his arrival to a team that has played in the postseason every year of his career.
The Shockers went from NIT participant to NIT champion to NCAA Tournament participant to the Elite Eight during Williams’ career, and in many ways he has been the backbone of those efforts. He has missed four games — none the last two years — and has 109 wins to his credit, 11 more than any previous Shocker.
"It means a lot," Williams said. "Just the hard work that I’ve dedicated to this game, the game of basketball. I love it so much that it shows my drive and how willing I was to stay here in this system. It shows how faithful I am to this system and this coaching staff."
Williams takes a light-hearted approach to his injuries, chuckling as he describes the constant pain and weakness in every joint from the waist down on the left side of his body.
He may not be embracing that pain, but Williams is at least accepting it, the same way he has dealt with a slash in his minutes.
When Williams was younger, he learned leadership from players such as Clevin Hannah, J.T. Durley and Toure Murry. He knows that’s what WSU needs from him now.
"My experience has helped the team with the young guys," Williams said. "How to work hard every day, how to keep your mind focused and just keep everything together like a family."
There are plenty of ways for Williams to avoid thinking about his injuries. He has embraced his leadership role, he’s enjoying Wichita State’s historic tournament run as much as every other player and he’s pleased to see the emergence of Baker as one of WSU’s keys to its tourney success.
Williams can still make an impact, too. In 15 minutes accumulated in brief spurts, he can provide the Shockers with energy, contribute defensively and occasionally look to score as the veteran of WSU’s second unit.
"As long as I’m out there, I just do what I need to do to help the team," Williams said. "If that’s to come in and make a shot, to be a lockdown defender, it’s whatever I’m capable of doing."