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Illini Basketball Player Preview: Da’Monte Williams

The freshman legacy will look to bounce back and contribute to the Underwood offense.

Da’Monte Williams is a freshman combo guard from Peoria, Ill. He is the son of Frank Williams, the Big Ten Player of the Year for Illinois in 2001. Da’Monte is listed at 6’3”, 190 pounds.

What he did last year:

Well, not much, to be honest. Williams was a highly regarded recruit going into his senior year at Peoria Manual High School, but tore his ACL early on in the season in a game on December 2, 2016. But if you look at his highlight reel from his junior year, there’s a lot to like. He does a little bit of everything - passing (which his father was known for at Illinois), shooting, defense, and finishing around the rim. Before his season-ending injury last year, Williams had chosen the Illini over programs like Indiana and Kansas. ESPN ranked him as #93 in the nation and a four-star recruit overall.

How he fits in Underwood’s system:

Brad Underwood, as you’ve probably heard time and time again, runs an offense whose goal is to score in the first seven seconds of a possession. If you watched Oklahoma State basketball last year, you know how fun that can be. Because of this run-and-gun style of play, there will often be three or four guards in the game at one time. Obviously, Williams can run the floor, and his ability to play defense (did you see how many 3-pointers he blocked in that video?) will benefit him in terms of getting playing time. He can handle the ball and pass, which will play well into how Underwood will want the offense to run - there is a lot of off-ball movement that will require some timely passing. And, of course, Williams will be helpful to Underwood and the Illini cause in terms of playing time because Illinois finally has talented guards - multiple talented guards - that can all handle the ball.

What to expect this year:

Don’t expect Da’Monte to start, but he does have an opportunity to get a decent number minutes for Brad Underwood and co. Because Underwood will likely run three or even four guards at certain times during a game, it’s very possible that all three freshmen (Williams, Mark Smith, and Trent Frazier) will see playing time early and often during the season. But because Illinois finally does have a deep and potentially talented backcourt, Williams will have to compete for playing time. He was fully cleared for basketball activities earlier this month, but the injury that ended his high school career definitely puts him at a disadvantage for playing time. But, considering his defensive prowess, his minutes could increase during the season, especially if any of the returners struggle.