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Under the radar, Da’Monte Williams impressing teammates and coaches on defense

The freshman guard from Peoria has been making a strong impression so far.

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Included in a freshman class of guards alongside Mark Smith and Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams has gone under the radar to Illinois Fighting Illini fans this offseason.

But the 6-foot-3 guard from Peoria has been receiving a fare amount of praise from his coaches and teammates so far this season.

“Da’Monte has been doing really well,” junior forward Michael Finke said. “He just listens really well, always in the right spot offensively and defensively. I think defensively he brings that edge, something we don’t have that much on the court right now for us.”

Williams received the start over Smith and Frazier in Illinois’ exhibition loss to Eastern Illinois last Friday.

While Williams scored only two points on 1-of-4 from the field, getting the nod into the starting lineup will bode well for him early this season.

With defense a main concern for Illinois head coach Brad Underwood this season, sophomore guard Te’Jon Lucas agrees with Finke that Williams is bringing a lot defensively.

“Da’monte has been really great on the ball, defender wise,” Lucas said.

While it would not be surprising to see Williams’ name left out of the starting lineup in Illinois’ season opener Friday night versus Southern, the freshman will get his fair share of playing time due to his motor and rebounding ability.

“Da’Monte has been off the charts for us,” Underwood said. “Probably, overall in practice and on the year, (Williams) has been our leading rebounder. He just has a tremendous nose and nack for the ball.”