By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
There’s a difference between being back from an injury, and being completely back from injury.
While Brian Williams returned from a surgery on an injured wrist late in the 2012-13 season, it was clear he wasn’t the same player from the year before that had him considered the best defender for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
That difference was evident Tuesday night in OSU’s rout of No. 11 Memphis at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
For the first time this year, Williams appeared to be the type of player he was his redshirt freshman season — and he’d agree with that sentiment.
“It’s huge because I’m trying to prove to everybody that I’ve still got it,” Williams said. “... Now I’m starting to come into my home and hopefully I can just build off of this performance.”
The junior from Baton Rouge, La., scored a season-high 15 points — the most points for the combo guard since a 23-point outing against Baylor his freshman year — with a season-high eight rebounds. The important aspect of his performance was his willingness to attack off the dribble, going to the free-throw line five times — with a perfect 5 for 5 performance — and being close to the rim allowed him to go a solid 5 of 8 from the field.
It was banging down low, and not necessarily favoring the previously injured wrist, that has Williams feeling more confident early this season.
“I told myself I needed a big game. Granted, my game isn’t predicated around scoring, but scoring some baskets is good,” Williams said. “That all just builds my confidence to back where I was before the injury.”
With all the attention surrounding future NBA Draft lottery pick Marcus Smart and potential future NBA picks Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash, Williams clearly adds an extra element for opposing teams to take into consideration now that he is truly back from injury.
As a bench player in his freshman campaign — until cracking the starting lineup the final 20 games of the season — Williams averaged 9.6 points and 3.3 rebounds. As a full-time starter who likely will get his chances with opposing defenses focusing elsewhere, Williams could find himself growing beyond OSU’s best defender, to the Cowboys’ secret weapon on offense.
“You can’t be successful at the level that we hope to be without a player like Brian Williams,” Cowboy coach Travis Ford said. “Every player has a role on our team to try to help us win, and you need guys like Brian Williams who are capable of scoring, capable of rebounding and capable of defending. That’s essential to where we’re wanting to get and was