Over the last two years, no one has gotten more criticism from Jim Boeheim than Benny Williams. It’s seemingly been a constant plea from the head coach to his forward to be the five-star player he was expected to be coming out of IMG Academy.
Finally, Boeheim and Syracuse fans saw it against Boston College. The sophomore scored 16 points on 6/11 shooting, and went 2/2 from beyond the arc. That’s the second most points Williams has scored in a game in his career, behind only Colgate at the beginning of this season.
It’s also part of a bit of a trend. Williams has now scored in double figures in four of his last five games, the only one not meeting that mark was Pitt, where he only had three tallies in 13 minutes. Over that stretch, Williams is shooting 51% from the field and four of his five three-point attempts.
Boeheim has said all season that the Orange need Williams’ scoring ability at the four. Even when the rebounding was a glaring problem, the Hall of Famer stuck with the sophomore, knowing this was in him, it was just a matter of translating the talent into a game setting. After the BC game, Boeheim said it was never an option to change the starting lineup because Williams is clearly the best forward in practice.
Then, there’s the rebounding. Williams had 11 of them against Boston College. Those, combined with his 16 points, gave the sophomore his second career double-double, to go along with the St. John’s game in the Empire Classic.
Boeheim said this is who Williams is, he just hasn’t shown it in games yet. That better be true. The sophomore was aggressive, he was assertive and he looked confident at every level offensively. He crashed the boards and got tip-ins, something that has been rare throughout the start of his career despite his size-he’s listed at 6’8 208 pounds, but his head coach says he’s 6’9 220-and the athletic ability that made him a borderline five-star prospect and is evident when you watch him move on the court.
It’s there, it always has been, he just had to show it. Now, Williams has to show it consistently. Jesse Edwards picked up his fourth foul with about 17 minutes left in the second half, and didn’t play for the next 12 minutes. BC used the first part of that stretch to claw back into the game, but SU took back control in the back half.
Williams has to be the other option when one of Edwards, Joe Girard or Judah Mintz is either in foul trouble, not effective or unavailable for whatever reason. This season, if Syracuse hasn’t gotten significant contributions from its “big three,” it hasn’t won.
A confident and effective Williams means that isn’t necessarily the case. The Orange have another option who can be dynamic, he just has to be dynamic consistently.