Fresh­man stretches de­fenses, per­cep­tions

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - BY JESSE DOUGHERTY jesse.dougherty@wash­post.com

Who Ter­rance Wil­liams’s fa­vorite bas­ket­ball player is lends a lot of in­sight into the player he wants to be.

Gon­zaga’s 6-foot-7 fresh­man for­ward is still grow­ing, which could mean he winds up be­ing the height of a tra­di­tional cen­ter. He is al­ready stretch­ing de­fenses with his out­side touch, so it wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing if he mod­eled his game af­ter shoot­ing big men such as the Kings’ DeMar­cus Cousins, the Nets’ Brook Lopez or the Griz­zlies’ Marc Ga­sol.

But in­stead Wil­liams says he stud­ies tape of Duke fresh­man Jayson Ta­tum, a 6-foot-8 Swiss Army knife.

“I don’t think shoot­ing the ball is enough, even at my size,” Wil­liams said. “I want to han­dle the ball, I want to move the ball, I want to be a wing. I think Jayson Ta­tum’s game is re­ally smooth, and I think my game is like that, too. And I think it can be no mat­ter what size I am.”

The evo­lu­tion of the big man is on­go­ing across all lev­els of bas­ket­ball, and prospects who tra­di­tion­ally would have been con­sid­ered for­wards or cen­ters be­cause of their size are no longer caged inside the paint. Now that a ma­jor­ity of cen­ters and power for­wards can stretch the floor, play­ers such as Ta­tum — tall wings who push the ball, shoot and guard up to five po­si­tions — are sprin­kled across the sport.

That is how Wil­liams sees him­self, and he hopes to gar­ner more re­cruit­ing at­ten­tion by fill­ing that mold for the No. 3 Ea­gles. He has no schol­ar­ship of­fers yet but has re­ceived in­ter­est from Vir­ginia, Penn State, Ge­orge Ma­son and Tu­lane.

“He’s not a tra­di­tional post player,” Gon­zaga Coach Steve Turner said. “He’s go­ing to be a kid that stretches out to the wing, and he has those skill sets al­ready. So it’s a luxury be­ing able to have a dou­ble-edged sword with a kid that is able to play inside but can also stretch peo­ple out with his shot.”

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