Donovan Williams did not have a pleasant first few weeks on campus.
Nebraska’s Mr. Basketball quickly found out that title meant nothing to him at Oklahoma State.
He averaged 28 points per game as a senior, shooting as many shots as he wanted, no matter how many defenders crowded his airspace.
That’s not a knock on Williams’ play. It was his team’s best chance of winning.
But the days of him being a star player are behind him. Every teammate is just as good. Right now, most are better. That realization hit him hard when he arrived in Stillwater.
“My confidence was real down,” Williams said. “You take a kid from a small city in Nebraska who was the man, and now you come on a team full of pros. (We have the) top pick in the draft next year, Isaac, all these guys that are all high-level players. Now you’re just a fish in a big pond.”
Williams knew how to play the game one way. He only ever had one job — score.
Coach Mike Boynton is teaching him a new way to play. To help the team, he’ll have to accept a new role.
“He may be the classic example of kids who struggle as freshmen because they have no idea how hard it is to be successful in college,” Boynton said. “He was trying to shoot over two guys for about two months. And his shooting percentage was probably the worst on our team.”
The adjustment took time. There wasn’t a shortcut. It was just something Williams had to become accustomed to.
But in that time his confidence took a hit. Along with taking poor shots, he just wasn’t shooting the ball well, missing open looks he usually knocks down with ease.
Williams told himself to keep shooting. His coaches and teammates did, too. But if he doesn’t truly believe they’ll go in, it won’t help too much.
“It was just something that I had to just face,” Williams said. “I think all freshmen go through something like that. I just realized I wasn’t what I thought I was initially.”
It took a while, but Williams is feeling like his normal self again. He has been having his best practices as of late, albeit with a different perspective.
He’s not trying to be the hero or the focal point of his team. Williams has recognized other, less glorified ways to contribute. He crashes the boards and plays with high effort on defense.
Williams used to want to be Lebron James. As he’s matured, he admires NBA players such as Andre Iguodala, a role player who is a big contributor to winning basketball because of his attention to detail.
Maybe Williams could pop off for 20 in a game. He’s talented and has done it in the past, but it isn’t going to be something the team gameplans for him to do.
For now, Williams is more than happy playing his role.
“I think he’s gonna be a big part of what we do,” Boynton said. “But it may not be the way he envisioned it.
“My job is to get these guys to understand it’s about the team, and the more success our team has, the more opportunities individuals will have. That message is resonating with him.”