Every summer, a team of current college basketball players goes overseas to play a series of games against international competition. “USA East Coast” is the name of the team, and former SU players to have played for the team include Rakeem Christmas. Benny Williams is the latest Orange hooper to play for this team, as he suited up last weekend. There are several positives to take from the rising second-year forward’s play in Spain as opening night draws closer.
First of all, Christmas showed drastic improvement in the season directly after playing in Spain. The former SU big man saw a massive jump in his efficiency, as his free throw percentage bumped up 15% and he shot the ball nearly 10% better as well. That season was his junior campaign. As a senior, he tripled his scoring output and nearly doubled his rebounds per game. Wow. If Christmas can go overseas and come back a very different player, there’s no reason to think Williams can’t do the same.
Williams also played very well during his time overseas. Over the course of three games, Williams played 15 minutes per game and averaged six points and seven rebounds per game. That is 16 points and 19 rebounds for every 40 minutes played. Not too shabby.
This comes after Williams showed some strong flashes of play before his season-ending injury against North Carolina. The forward’s play was the only positive to come out of an embarrassing loss to Duke at the end of February. Williams’ 14 points in that game accounted for 25% of his scoring the entire season. In the next game, he suffered a season-ending injury. Still, that is a very encouraging way for Williams to enter the offseason. Combine that with his strong play in Spain, now is the time for Williams to get cooking in an Orange uniform.
With the talent the recruiting Class of ’22 has to offer, it feels like now or never for Williams. If he continues his strong play from the summer into training camp, chances are we could see him in the Starting Five. But if the opposite is true, he’ll find himself in a very similar position to last year: on the bench more often than not.