The bench was not a familiar spot for Terrance Williams II.
The sophomore forward came to Michigan as a decorated four-star recruit, averaging 17.9 points and 9.9 rebounds his senior year of high school and winning Gatorade Player of the Year in the District of Columbia. But trapped behind a veteran frontcourt in his first year with the Wolverines, the self-proclaimed “junkyard dog” aptly saw most of his game action in garbage time.
“Last year, as a freshman, I really wasn’t that confident,” Williams said at Michigan’s media day last week. “I worked on it and was still in the gym a lot, but after I missed a couple (shots), I started overthinking a lot. It’s that freshman mindset — ‘I don’t want to mess up and make mistakes when I come in the game.’ ”
In limited minutes, Williams failed to make much of an impact, putting up an average of just 1.9 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. Part of the issue for Williams was his lack of a true position. At 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, Williams is an in-betweener and not quite a fit as a small or power forward.
In an ideal world, Williams wants to play at the four. But going into this season, his mindset is different: It’s not about what position he’ll play, it’s about adding the skills necessary to be the most versatile player he can be. At practice, Williams is focusing on ball-handling, reading screens and taking all the skills he developed at the four and relearning them at the three.
“I’m still trying to get into flow, playing with different lineups in practice,” Williams said. “I’m not just with a set lineup right now. Sometimes I play the three, sometimes I play the four. Sometimes I play the five … Whatever the coaches need on the court, I’m going to try to fill that role.”
Looking at the Wolverines’ potential lineups, there’s a clear reason for Williams to be ready to jump in at any spot. The departures of Isiah Livers and Franz Wagner leaves holes all over the frontcourt, and Williams is taking measures to ensure that he’s carved out a more solidified role on this Michigan squad.
Besides his adaptability, Williams has worked to fix his shooting. He was only 38% from the field last year, and his timid approach often saw his shots falling short.
“(Michigan coach Juwan Howard) is letting me play a little bit more free,” Williams said. “He’s not really saying a lot on my jump shot because it has been forming a lot in practice … and it’s more just repetitions. I feel like, and all the coaches feel like, it really wasn’t mechanics. I had a good base. It’s more picking up reps for me, continuously flicking the wrist, so it’s never really short.”
One reason that may have contributed to Williams’ shooting woes was a lack of conditioning. Over the offseason, Williams changed his diet to eat more fruits and vegetables and less fried foods. He cut down 10 pounds, and what he’s lost in weight, he’s gaining in stamina.
“I felt like I was tired after three minutes, four minutes of coming into the game,” Williams said. “I was like, ‘Nah — this can’t happen next year,’ because I feel like I’m going to play more and I’m going to need to get in better shape. It’s all paying off now. I feel lighter, and I’m moving way better.”
Williams is preparing for different spots on the court, improving his shooting and taking a more disciplined approach to conditioning. With all these changes, he believes that his sophomore season will be a brighter chapter, and not a repeat of a forgetful opening act.
Williams may not know what role he’ll play yet, but it’s clear it will be a more prominent one.