It feels like a lifetime ago that we first heard of Da’Monte Williams playing in the orange and blue. Thankfully, Illini fans will get to see the 6-foot-3 Peoria native back in Champaign for a “super senior” year.
Between Trent Frazier and Da’Monte, the Illini get back their two most experienced players on the roster from last year. The super seniors committed under John Groce and have stayed for the Underwood era, seeing the program completely flip spectrums from a bottom-feeding Big Ten team to a national title contender. For Williams specifically, he has seen his role on the team change drastically in his five years here.
The one thing that has remained constant, however, is Williams' contribution as the ultimate glue guy.
When Williams first committed to Illinois, his name came with quite the reputation. The son of Illini legend Frank Williams followed in his fathers' footsteps and has made quite the legacy in his time at Illinois.
As a freshman and sophomore, Williams played significant minutes for a struggling Illini program. In those two years, Williams averaged 3.4 points. In his junior year, he saw a career-low averaging only 2.8 points a game.
Over the last four seasons, Illinois has been a much more efficient team when Da’Monte was on the floor, and it wasn’t for his scoring ability. It was what he did outside of the stat sheet that Da’Monte carved out a role for himself on the roster.
Teammates and coaches have praised Williams for the energy he brings the team night after night. Williams is a team-first guy who you know is going to be focused on winning.
Despite not being the most dynamic offensive player, Williams turned himself into quite the offensive threat last year. Leading the nation in three-point percentage at one point last season, Da’Monte added a completely different dynamic to his game. Not only did he become a knockdown shooter from behind the arc, but he always seemed to sink a three when the Illini needed it most, propelling Illinois to a big run, most notably in the Big Ten Tournament win over No. 7 Ohio State.
This year Williams will take another key role on the Illini’s roster. In years past, he has shown he can guard just about any position on the court, and I presume that will continue into this year.
Don’t look past his rebounding ability either, Williams has posted double-digit rebounding numbers multiple times throughout his career, averaging 5.2 per game last year.
On the offensive end, Williams could have another big year from beyond the arc with Andre Curbelo’s passing ability. If teams don't close out and get a hand in his face, Williams is going to knock down shots. With more knockdown perimeter shooters like Da’Monte, it opens up the lane for Kofi and Curbelo to work in.
With all the weapons on this roster, it seems so hard to say exactly who is a starter. I feel confident believing we will see significant minutes out of Williams this year, starter or not.
He can knock down shots, defend, rebound, and everything in between. Regardless of whether he’s is in the starting lineup, he is going to impact the game in some way, shape or form. Underwood knows he can trust Williams is going to do whatever is needed on any given night to win. Another year older, Williams knows exactly what is needed to run Underwood’s system effectively.
Underwood will lean on guys like Da’Monte to set the culture for the younger/newer guys as Illinois looks to become one of the nation’s best programs for the second year in a row.