SEATTLE – Jamaal Williams is basketball’s version of the Bermuda Triangle.
When the ball is passed to him, his teammates never see it again. Well, never might be a little strong. Let’s say, seldom.
You see, Williams likes to shoot. Which could be a problem if he didn’t score. But the 6-foot-5 junior forward is unusually good at finding the hole. And the Husky coaching staff isn’t about to discourage him from launching.
But neither would they mind if Williams would, you know, maybe share the ball every now and then.
Said head coach Lorenzo Romar with a teasing little smile after a recent game, “We’d like to see Jamaal get an assist once every four games.”
He was only half-joking.
“We’d like to see him catch it and maybe 20 percent of the time pass it back out,” said assistant coach Ken Bone.
Having said that, he quickly added, “He does need to score. That’s his role. If he’s in there not looking to score, he might as well not be in there.”
That’s not to imply that scoring is all Williams can do. He either leads or is among the team leaders in rebounds, steals and blocked shots.
“I try to do all the intangible things along with my scoring,” the native of Corona, Calif., said. “Rebounding is one, but I don’t try to get steals. Steals just happen. The ball ends up coming my way and I deflect it. My long arms definitely help with that. Blocks, same thing. It’s not like I try to get those. They just occur sometimes.”
Scoring isn’t just a sometimes thing with him. Better than 58 percent of the time when the ball leaves his hands, it goes in the basket. In the past two games, he shot 24 times, made 19, and had 41 points in 43 minutes.
For the season, his per-game averages are: 11.6 points and 4.9 rebounds. All this in 19 minutes a game as a reserve forward.
With his penchant for points, he reminds Romar of a couple of former NBA players, both known for their scoring: Mark Aguirre and Adrian Dantley.
Williams never got to see either of them play, but has asked Romar if he could come up with some tapes just so he can find out how he compares.
He realizes that his coaches would like to see him pass a little more just to keep the offensive flow going that the Huskies have ridden to a 10-1 record and a No. 13 ranking as they head into Pac-10 play this week.
“That’s always being brought up to me,” he said. “They know that I’m a scorer and that’s my first option, but they always make mention that maybe sometimes (I should) just kick it out and make the extra pass if nothing’s there. But if something’s there, I’m probably going to take it.”
And the coaches have no problem with that. Romar knew what he was getting when Williams, who spent his first two years at New Mexico, transferred to the UW last year, sitting out the season due to NCAA rules.
“I’ve been watching him since he was in the ninth grade,” the coach said. “He was a scorer then. I knew that’s what he could do for us.”
Romar recruited Williams when he was coach at Saint Louis University, but Williams opted for New Mexico. In his sophomore year, the Lobos got a new coach, Ritchie McKay, a former Husky assistant. Player and coach didn’t always see eye-to-eye.
“I didn’t really fit into his offense, which is fine,” Williams said. “I knew there was probably going to be some kind of mixup when he got hired. He didn’t recruit me. But I gave it a chance and it didn’t work out. We parted ways, on good terms, and now I’m here.”
And the Huskies are thankful he is. A powerful scoring attack got even more potent with his punch off the pines.
At times, Williams almost seems to operate with radar when it comes to finding the basket. “I don’t know how he does it,” point guard Will Conroy said. “Sometimes, he doesn’t even look at the basket and the shot goes in.”
He leaves his coaches shaking their heads in amazement. “His feel for the basket is as good as I’ve ever seen, and that’s counting games I’ve watched and games I’ve coached,” said Bone, the head man at Seattle Pacific University before coming to the UW. “He just knows where the hoop is. He’s got one thing in mind when he touches the ball: He’s going to score.”
Williams acknowledges: He is a scorer. A reluctant scorer. “I don’t like to shoot,” he said.
Wait a minute. Whose leg you trying to pull, big fella?
“They’ll (his coaches) say differently, that I like to shoot,” he went on. “But I just take what’s there.”
Whatever you say, Jamaal.
Your coaches will be happy if you just keep doing what you’ve been doing.
By the way, you’re due an assist the next game.