#3 Johnathan Williams III
6'9" 225 lb
Who Johnathan Williams III is and who he was asked to be this year are two different things. Expectations before the season weren’t necessarily sky high, but what was being asked of him was. Missouri coaches realized early that their best player, and player with perhaps the highest ceiling on the team, was Williams. That recognition is why they asked him to be more aggressive on offense and to be a leader. The problem was that he was not quite ready for that role.
Just think about this for a minute, Williams more than doubled his point output, increased his rebounds per game and improved his free throw percentage, and it wasn’t good enough. Part of that is because he didn’t improve those numbers in a vacuum. In order for Missouri to be good he needed to be a 16 & 10 kind of player, and he was a "pedestrian" 12 & 7 guy. Needless to say though, he took a step forward in his development as a player, even if it wasn’t as grand of a step that Missouri needed him to take this year. I put that the word pedestrian in quotes because for just about every other player making that jump as a sophomore, most fan bases would be thrilled with that level of output. But this year and on this team, Mizzou needed more from him and simply didn't get it. At least not on a consistent basis.
He had some huge games including 6 double-double games, and through the first half of the season he was the guy that we were hoping to get. From game #7 against SEMO to the #14 game against LSU game he averaged 17.6 ppg and 9.1 rebounds per game. It's also no coincidence that this stretch also seemed to align with the stretch where Mizzou seemed to be putting together it's best basketball. They were 3-5 in that stretch, but 2 of those losses were the games against Illinois and Oklahoma State, where Mizzou played like a top 100 team.
But Williams lost efficiency down the stretch, mainly because his knee wore down coupled with more focus from opposing defenses. In 24 of the 31 games games he shot under 50%, but where it gets a little worse is after the second Kentucky game, a stretch of 12 games, JW3 only shot above 50% once when he went off against Mississippi State for 27 points. That was a downward trend that seemed to align with him wearing out due to so much being put on his shoulders. But it extended even through the upset win over Florida and the home win over Auburn. Williams just couldn't get his inside game going. There wasn't enough around him to let him operate around the basket without being interfered with, and he simply wasn't strong enough to convert.
All this led to Williams Offensive Rating going down from a year ago according to KenPom stats. In 2013-14 he had an Offensive Rating of 105.8, this past year that dropped to 90.4. He was basically asked to do to much and it affected his ability to be effective. There were a host of things that JW3 was going to be able to focus on this offseason in order to improve the outlook for Missouri basketball heading into the future, but we're not going to know that future with him as a part of it. Williams decided to transfer and even with his relative struggles last season is leaving a pretty big hole in the middle of the Mizzou offense for next year.
I'm still not sure that he would have been best as the top option next year. Williams skill set seems better suited as a Robin to someone elses Batman. He's so good at locating the ball on the offensive glass, that being a primary option removes him from being able to do what he does best, and that's clean up. It will be interesting to see where he ends up, and maybe more interesting to see how Kim Anderson and company fill his minutes.
Strengths: He's an impact player on both ends of the floor, particularly around the rim. He was a highly recruited kid with offers from Michigan State, Tennessee, Georgetown, and Alabama. As a freshman, he was too nice of a player. He couldn't do many things outside the paint, struggled at the foul line, and was primarily a rebounder. He is a good shot blocker, rim protector, and moves his feet well laterally. As a sophomore, he became more aggressive, he improved his jump shot, he can step out to 17 feet and the 3-point line, and he has a great power left handed hook shot. Against Ole Miss, he had 4 points and 2 rebounds at the half and finished with 27 points and 7 rebounds. It was a career high for J3. That was he type of season he had. He has all the ability to take over, but also had many ups and down in consistent play. He finished the season with 20 double figure games. He also had 8 double figure rebound games. He's an athletic big man, more of a face up off the dribble player with a quick first step. He has a soft touch that he's developed, and loves to go left when his back is to the basket on the low block. He has a lot of upside, and could be a great player.
Weaknesses: Being consistent is his biggest issue. He's had fantastic games, and is a different player this year. With that being said, against teams with more length and athleticism, he's been shut down. He's had 1-13 game at Kentucky, 3-11 against Texas A&M, and has also been injury prone with his right knee in 2 years at Missouri. I think he needs to develop a right hand, which would be essential for his spin move game in the paint. He favors his left way too much, his dominate hand, and could really afford to be able to use two hands around the rim. I would like to see him continue to take steps next year with consistency, just a part of being a great player and demanding of yourself.
SEC Coaching Comments: "Johnathon is a fantastic person with high character. He has tendencies to be too nice on the floor, and I have to get into him a lot to bring out the emotion in him. He's responded well, but is very soft spoken. He's a smart player, and really has great timing around the rim to block shots."
First off, good luck to JW3 in his next step in his basketball life, wherever that takes him.
The expectations put on his shoulders were probably unreasonable going into this season but as Sam noted above the progress he made from year one to year two was a great step towards becoming a more evolved offensive threat. It looked like before he got dinged up (which was quite noticeable in the second MSU game) that he had found himself; driving to the basket, getting fouled, developing a reasonable outside shot and showing the emotion that his coach demanded of him. I look forward to seeing his continued growth, hopefully on a team where he doesn't have to be the man and he can continue to grow.
Williams was a bit of an enigma this year. Dominant at times, but faded down the stretch, and seemed to dislike having to be the go-to guy on offense. In the wake of his decision to transfer, it sounds like part of the fade may have been due to lingering knee issues, and part of it was likely due to a lack of chemistry with his teammates. If Clark, Wright, Gill-Caesar, or anyone else could have taken the scoring pressure off him with any kind of consistency, this team looks very different. But, as it is, all I can say is good effort this season, J3. Sorry things didn't work out better.
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This is the first post-season review in what will be a series covering each player on the roster (that played) and how they performed. J3's post is rushed a bit since he announced his intention to transfer, but the rest of the roster will start to be published next week.