There are a lot of numbers to consider for Wichita State junior point guard Demetric Williams.
The 10 assists he had during the Shockers’ 86-74 win over Evansville on Wednesday night at Koch Arena. The 1-of-5 shooting. The one turnover in 34 minutes.
But the number that stands out most is the 3.0-plus grade-point average Williams earned during the fall semester. He was one of several dozen Shocker athletes — including two from the men’s basketball team – who were announced as President’s Honor Roll members during halftime.
“You know, the last couple of semesters I haven’t been doing too good academically,’’ Williams said. “So I really focused on school and getting my education.’’
And when he received an A in an algebra class, after making up an incomplete in the class during the Shockers’ road travels in January, he broke the 3.0 GPA barrier.
It’s a sign of not only Williams’ growing maturity in the classroom, but also on the basketball floor. He’s a player who has had to fight for minutes since arriving from Las Vegas three years ago.
And the more Williams fought, it seemed, the more difficult it became for him to sustain his playing time.
“He’s maturing every day in practice and in every game,’’ WSU coach Gregg Marshall said of Williams, who has lately moved into the starting lineup because of his defensive abilities. “But it’s still a work in progress. The best thing about Demetric is how competitive he is. But that can sometimes come across a little negatively.’’
Competition fuels Williams, but it also causes him to stall out on occasion. When he is goaded by an opponent, Williams often tries to retaliate instead of staying the course.
He forces up bad shots — one of his first-half attempts Wednesday night was a real clunker — and loses focus. But it’s not nearly as prevalent as it used to be and Williams might have played the best floor game of his career against the Purple Aces.
“I knew Evansville likes to pack their defense in the paint and take a lot of charges,’’ Williams said. “So tonight I just wanted to be under control and dish the ball off. I was able to do that successfully and my teammates were finishing.’’
Williams had several hook-ups with 7-foot senior center Garrett Stutz, whose 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting led the Shockers. Seven of Williams’ 10 assists came in that first half, when WSU was building a 51-34 lead.
He also started the game defensively on Evansville junior guard Colt Ryan, the nation’s fifth-leading scorer at 21.2 points. But with Williams hounding him early, and Toure Murry taking his turn, Ryan didn’t score his first basket, a three-pointer, until 7:52 remained in the first half.
“Demetric was a whirling dervish out there,’’ Marshall said. “Now he’s not shooting it great. That one jumper he had and the transition attempt with his left hand were not good.’’
My sense is that Marshall doesn’t give a hoot about how many points Williams scores, and that he’ll take the assists and defense any day.
Williams’ 10 dishes were six more than he has had in a game this season and the first double-digit assist total for any Shocker since Clevin Hannah had 10 against Illinois State on Jan. 21, 2009.
“I’m real proud of Demetric for the 3.0 and he’s really coming around as a player, too,’’ Marshall said. “He’s so much more fun to be around now. He doesn’t have these mood swings where he sulks a little bit from time to time because he’s getting a chance to play and he’s playing well. He’s evolving and hopefully we haven’t seen the end of his evolution.’’
Often, it takes a while for college players to settle in. Look at Stutz, who is having by far his best season — an All-Missouri Valley Conference season — as a senior.
Look at Murry, who has taken on a much bigger leadership role as a senior.
As a junior, Williams might even be ahead of schedule.
“Tonight I did the primary things I was asked to do,’’ he said. “I always pride myself on defense and tonight I was able to dish out a lot of assists. It all worked out good.’’