Not all stories have a happy ending. Look no further than Benny Williams’ time in the Syracuse Men’s Basketball program. It was a very complex story, so let’s dive into exactly where things went wrong, and in some cases right, for both Williams and the program.
A HIGHLY HERALDED RECRUIT
Few commits in recent memory have had the spotlight that Williams had on him. He was SU’s lone big-time recruit in the class of 2021, and was at the worst a four-star recruit on every major recruiting platform. Other schools interested in Williams included Georgetown, Maryland, and Florida. 247 Sports described him as “a high leaper with athleticism”. Expectations for him coming in were quite high.
Those expectations were not met straight away. Williams struggled throughout his freshman campaign, only reaching the six-point mark three times before February 23, and two of those games were non-competitive in Lafayette and Brown. From early January to mid-February, Williams went nearly a month and a half without a made field goal. The struggles were real.
A LONE BRIGHT SPOT
In an otherwise forgettable game, Williams showed flashes of his potential against Duke on February 26. The forward tallied 14 points and six rebounds in 30 minutes of play, including a sweet acrobatic finish at the rim. His season ended following Syracuse’s next game against North Carolina due to a lower body injury, but that performance against the Blue Devils gave reason for hope.
Despite mass criticism from Jim Boeheim, Williams stayed with the program and vaulted into the starting lineup in year two. He had some good games, including a 17-point outburst against Colgate and double-doubles against Saint John’s and Boston College. Others, he was a non-factor, scoring a combined three points in tight-knit losses to Bryant and Pitt.
This tells you all you need to know. It does not matter that Williams failed to make a field goal in this particular game. You just can’t do that.
BACK TO SQUARE ONE
A few weeks after that debacle in Kentucky, Boeheim opted to start Maliq Brown over Williams on the road against Virginia Tech. The latter played seven minutes, did not score, and turned the ball over twice. Williams was nowhere to be found in the Orange’s next contest, which led to an awkward encounter we’re all familiar with.
Williams returned for SU’s next game at Boston College, but did not start again until February 25 against Pitt.
LATE SOPHOMORE SURGE
A 24-point outing at Pitt and a double-double in Syracuse’s ACC Tournament loss to Wake Forest left us in a very similar situation to where we were at the end of Williams’ freshman campaign. Optimism aplenty. It feels like Adrian Autry gave confidence in that when he brought Williams to the ACC Tipoff before the season. That is until…
This happened. To this day we aren’t 100% sure what exactly the team rules he violated were, and there’s good reason to doubt we ever will. But this caused Williams to miss the final exhibition game as well as the first two regular season contests against New Hampshire and Canisius. Williams did not reenter the starting lineup.
A PAIR OF DNPs
Williams was noticeably absent from the court in the Orange’s loss to Gonzaga in Hawaii as well as a victory over Cornell in early December. After both games, Autry was rather short with his answers, not revealing a whole lot. It was simply a coach’s decision to not play Williams.
FIGURED IT OUT?
Despite those struggles, there was a stretch a little over a month ago where people were feeling good. He had a strong performance against Pitt before the new year, many wanted him back in the starting lineup despite scoring outputs that weren’t super high. Things were starting to look up until…
THE LAST STRAW
This past weekend’s loss to Wake Forest. It’s one thing to get a technical foul, it’s another to behave the way he did after receiving it.
It does not matter how talented you are, how much potential you show, how much hype you came in with. If you act like that, you’re asking for trouble, and trouble Williams got.
So ends one of the most fascinating careers Syracuse Men’s Basketball has seen in recent years. Hopefully Benny Williams ends up in a setting where he can succeed.