Williams hopes trip home helps cure Hogs’ road woes

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
NWA MEDIA/SAMANTHA BAKER -- Arkansas' Jacorey Williams, left, shoots over Josh Henderson of Vanderbilt Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, at Bud Walton Arena.
Photo by Samantha Baker
NWA MEDIA/SAMANTHA BAKER -- Arkansas' Jacorey Williams, left, shoots over Josh Henderson of Vanderbilt Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, at Bud Walton Arena.

— Jacorey Williams’ choices for a college basketball scholarship came down to Arkansas and Alabama. He decided to leave his home state to play for the Razorbacks.

“I just thought it was a better fit for me, looking at my future,” said Williams, a 6-8 freshman forward from Birmingham Central Park Christian High School. “I like the style of play. Alabama gets up and down, but not like Arkansas gets up and down.”

Williams hopes to help the Razorbacks (12-7, 3-3 SEC) bring home a victory from Coleman Coliseum when they play Alabama (12-7, 4-3) at 8 p.m. Central on Thursday. ESPN2 is televising the game nationally.

It will be Williams’ first college game in his home state. He said he needs about 25 tickets for family members, including his mother and father, three sisters and twin brother, Jatorey. Several aunts and cousins also will be in attendance.

“I’ve got a lot of people coming to the game, so I want to show everybody how the Razorbacks play, how we can really play,” Williams said. “So hopefully we can get this win on the road.”

Arkansas is still searching for its first road victory after a 0-4 start, including a 75-54 loss at South Carolina last Saturday. Arkansas has lost five in a row at Alabama since beating the Crimson Tide 63-57 on Jan. 27, 2007.

“We feel like once we get a road win, we’re going to get over the hump,” Williams said. “We come home and play great, we get tuned up, then we go back on the road and hit a wall again.

“We’re just looking for that first road win. That’s all anybody’s talking about.”

Williams has played off the bench in 18 games this season. He is averaging 4.3 points and 2.2 rebounds in 11.2 minutes per game. His better games include having 10 points against Mississippi State, 6 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals against Wisconsin, and 5 points and 4 rebounds against Syracuse.

“I think Jacorey, when given the opportunity, has come along really, really well,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “We’re going to see a lot more of him as we continue through this stretch right now.”

Anderson said the Razorbacks need more contributions from their bench players with three games in six days. After playing Alabama, they come home to face Tennessee on Saturday and No. 4 Florida on Tuesday night.

“I feel like we’re all ready,” Williams said. “We’re all anxious to play. It’s just we’ve got to come out and execute when we do. We want Coach to be able to trust us on the road and not just at home.”

Anderson said Williams is a tough matchup because he has perimeter skills - including a nice jump shot - in a big man’s body at 6-8.

“I think he plays with toughness, and his versatility is very, very important,” Anderson said. “I think he can create not only for himself but for others.”

Anderson said he also likes Williams’ skills as a defensive player on the front of the press with his ability to deflect passes, and his ability on the back end to block shots.

Williams’ drawback, Anderson said, is a lack of experience.

“The only way he’s going to get that experience is by playing,” Anderson said.

Williams said he knew playing in the SEC would be tough, but it’s been more physical than he expected and he needs to get bigger and stronger. He weighs 210 pounds after playing at 195 as high school senior and said he hopes to be up to 225 by next year.

“It kind of opened my eyes to how far behind I am in the weight room,” Williams said. “I need to get in there and probably gain 15 more pounds over the summer, just to help my game. I feel like I’m skilled enough, but I need to catch up with my physical strength.”

Williams - who compared the transition from high school to the SEC to “going from a part-time job to a full-time job” - said his main goal for the rest of this season is to bring energy off the bench.

“I feel our starters are doing all they can,” he said. “They just need a little bit of extra help.”

Sports, Pages 19 on 01/30/2013