The player with the second-highest plus-minus rating on the Michigan men’s basketball team this season probably isn’t who you’d expect it to be. Unsurprisingly, sophomore guard Dug McDaniel is first. But second on that list isn’t one of the preseason suspects like graduate guard Olivier Nkamhoua or sophomore forward Tarris Reed Jr.
Rather, it’s senior forward Terrance Williams II.
Through the Wolverines’ first three games this season, Williams has netted 40 points on 50% shooting along with 17 rebounds and a top-three plus-minus in each game.
While Williams’ performances may come as a surprise to many outside the program, especially after a less-than-ideal campaign last season, his teammates and coaches are excited that he’s showing others what they’ve always believed he was capable of.
“Behind the scenes, we see it, that was kind of expected,” McDaniel said Nov. 7 after Michigan defeated UNC Asheville. “He’s a lights-out shooter and we just need him to keep being confident, keep knocking down shots and just keep being a threat because he is a threat. … And just having that confidence to show all the work he put in will be big for us and we’ll need him to continue to have nights like this.”
McDaniel’s comments came after Williams’ 15-point performance in the Wolverines’ season opener. And while Williams scored slightly fewer points in the two games that followed, his impact has been just as notable in a different way.
Against St. John’s on Monday, in Michigan’s first road test of the season under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, Williams had another big night like McDaniel mentioned. But it wasn’t smooth sailing from the get-go.
In the first frame, he had just four points on an inefficient 2-for-6 shooting, scoring off a dunk and transition layup while missing all three of his attempts from deep. But he played 17 solid minutes with no turnovers or fouls and snagged two defensive rebounds — nothing to write home about, but enough to keep him on the court as a role player.
Williams’ second half was a different story, though, to the tune of eight points on 50% shooting — including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. One play early on encapsulated this best. Williams nabbed a steal, ran the break, lost his defender with a spin move and then laid the ball in, helping put the Wolverines up by 17 and forcing the Red Storm to call a timeout.
His final stat line of 12 points, three rebounds and two steals doesn’t jump off the page. It was a solid performance that makes you understand why he’s on the court, but it won’t necessarily make him a headliner like McDaniel or Nkamhoua. But it’s his third reliable performance in as many games, and that caliber of play is sorely needed for a Michigan team hoping to bounce back from last season’s disappointment. And if Williams continues to bounce back like this, the Wolverines see no reason the team won’t follow suit.
“He is an example to all of our guys,” associate head coach Phil Martelli said Nov. 7. “It’s always not going to go your way. And for whatever reason, it didn’t go his way (last year). … You can put your back to the wall and say, ‘You know what, I’m going out as hard as I can.’ And that’s really what we’ve seen since July 1. He has shot the ball exceptionally well. He’s not a vocal guy, but he is the guy that holds others accountable.”
It’s clear Williams has held himself accountable, too. This offseason, instead of moping after a down year, he spent time retooling his shot, and through three games, that effort is paying dividends.
Granted, it is just three games, and his second game last season was his best of the year before he eventually lost his starting spot. But through the first three games of last season — including his season-high 18 points against Eastern Michigan — he scored 27 points on 35% shooting, stats his current 40 points on 50% shooting far surpass. His improvement this year is undeniable.
Michigan doesn’t need Williams to be one of its best scorers throughout the season — and he likely won’t be. Players like McDaniel and Nkamhoua are the stars. The Wolverines just need Williams to be a solid role player.
If they can continue to get reliable minutes and 10-15 points from him on a consistent basis, Williams will be taking some of the weight off of his teammates. It may not come in the form of a flashy stat line, but Williams is showing that he can quietly provide consistency and stability that Michigan needs.
And the second-highest plus-minus on the team becomes an added bonus.