Finding quality forwards in the OVC is challenge. At the mid-major level, there seems to be a much larger pool of eligible guards than forwards, and often questions like size and athleticism surround those who do fall to these kind of teams.
It’s a major reason many schools look to the JUCO ranks to fill their frontcourts. Those same guys get two years to develop — and as a coach you get two more years to see how they truly progress.
Even so, finding a player like Jarvis Williams isn’t a regular occurrence.
At 6’8, Williams would play the five in many systems. Thanks in part to fellow JUCO transfer Jonathan Fairell, Williams gets to play the four, and as a result is often matched up with 6’6, or even smaller guys. Combine that with a great touch at the rim, and a great rebounding sense, the athletic Williams is coming off a spectacular year in which he averaged 14.8 points a game, and a hair shy of 10 rebounds a contest.
When we think great shooters — guards, like Williams’ teammate Cameron Payne come to mind. But Williams was a 64.8% shooter from the floor last year. His eFG%, 64.6%, was 12th best in the nation. When he did miss — he often got his own rebound, leading the team in putbacks. He also was among the top-75 nationwide in getting to the free-throw line, where he hit 66%. There are few forwards in any program that can boast these kind of numbers.
Defensively, Williams isn’t a slouch either. While not boasting the block numbers of Chris Horton, Williams had nearly double any player on the Racers squad, including Fairell, and finished second in the league behind only Horton.
So where can Williams improve? Turnovers were a bit of an issue last year, averaging two a game. (That’s not terrible for a guy playing 32.5 mpg, but it could be lower) and that free-throw percentage could be four or five-points higher. Where he can really grow — passing out of double teams. Williams had few assists last year, which isn’t surprising given his high shooting percentage, but Williams is going to get pressure. Sometimes, the best option isn’t shooting. (Although — it often was)
Williams is the highest ranking forward on our countdown — it’s all guards from here out. But in a league without a lot of dominant frontcourt play, having a player like Williams can only amplify the play of your guards. Teams can’t focus on just one or two guys, they’ve got to respect the game inside the paint as well. On the flipside, having a teammate like Payne allows Williams to operate better as well, as fewer teams can bring double-teams in the paint. It’s that 1-2 punch that really gives Murray an edge — and it wouldn’t be possible if head coach Steve Prohm didn’t bring this gem from JUCO to Murray.