Williams 'showing what he's capable of' on the glass

By: Scottie Bordelon Scottie Bordelon's Twitter account
Published: Thursday, January 13, 2022
Arkansas forward Jaylin Williams collects a rebound Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, over Missouri guard Javon Pickett during the second half of the Razorbacks’ 87-43 win in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Visit nwaonline.com/220113Daily/ for the photo gallery.
( Andy Shupe)
Arkansas forward Jaylin Williams collects a rebound Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, over Missouri guard Javon Pickett during the second half of the Razorbacks’ 87-43 win in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Visit nwaonline.com/220113Daily/ for the photo gallery.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas forward Jaylin Williams’ modesty was on full display Thursday.

The Razorbacks’ second-year forward is in the midst of arguably the best rebounding stretch of his college career following another strong showing in Arkansas’ 87-43 victory over Missouri on Wednesday. But Williams hasn’t necessarily viewed it in that way.

Ask Williams about his efforts on the glass of late, he will chalk it up to pure luck.

“I guess I’ve just been coming up with them. I don’t know,” Williams said with his trademark grin. “I guess I’m just doing good in that part of my game.”

The Fort Smith native’s coaches and teammates are higher on his play in SEC games. Though the Razorbacks are 1-3 against league competition, Williams rebounding in bulk has been one of the team’s few constants.

He leads Arkansas with 38 total boards, including 32 on the defensive end. Davonte Davis, the lanky 6-3 guard, is second with 18.

For the season, he is tied for third among SEC players in rebounds per game at 8.6, trailing only Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe (15.1) and Florida’s Colin Castleton (9.2). It is not out of the realm of possibility for Williams to make a run at and grab hold of the No. 2 spot in the coming weeks.

“I think what he’s done so far is he’s gotten in better conditioning,” Razorbacks interim coach Keith Smart said. “He’s put the time in. I think he’s healthy. You see a bounce in how he’s playing now, so I think that’s going to be a big plus for him moving forward.

“He has all the abilities to be one of the top rebounders in the league, and as he continues to grow he could be one of the top rebounders in the country. But he’s showing what he’s capable of doing.”

A testament to Williams’ maturity for a young player, Smart added that the forward’s approach to the game has allowed him to stuff the rebounding column in the box score. He has been critical in the Razorbacks allowing an offensive rebound on only 21.2% of opponents’ misses.

That figure ranks eighth nationally, according to KenPom data. 

“That’s the biggest key for him and what he’s done thus far,” Smart said.

Entering Saturday’s game at No. 12 LSU, a team grabbing 33.9% of its misses for the season and 30.9% in league play, Williams has back-to-back double-doubles and three consecutive 10-plus-rebound games under his belt. Both occurrences are firsts for him in a Razorback uniform.

KenPom data also shows Williams holds the No. 22 defensive rebound rate in the country at 28.4%. He is No. 2 in SEC-only games (32.3%).

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman, who is expected to miss at least the team’s next two games after undergoing shoulder surgery on Thursday, said Williams has played admirably through something of an injury. He rolled an ankle late in the first half of the Razorbacks’ loss at Texas A&M last Saturday.

“(He’s been) phenomenal,” Musselman added following the win over Missouri. “I had to pull him out of practice (Tuesday) and even shootaround (Wednesday), because he didn’t really want to come out.”

Rebounding is largely a want-to thing and a mindset. It is also about gauging the trajectory of shots and being in proper position, which, somewhat reluctantly perhaps, Williams admitted are skills of his.

“That’s one thing I’m good at is being able to tell if a shot is short or long,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’ve always worked at or been good at since I was young.”

Of Williams’ recent run of sound interior play, Davis labeled it as “amazing,” and also commended him for little things that keyed his first back-to-back double-figure scoring games, as well.

Trey Wade, a veteran forward who starred against the Tigers, then offered up a simple, precise explanation for those contributions.

“Jaylin is just being Jaylin,” he said. “He’s been successful. He’s been a big piece for us.”

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