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Duke men's basketball 2020-21 player preview: Mark Williams

Williams provides rim protection and possesses stellar athleticism.
Williams provides rim protection and possesses stellar athleticism.

As the calendar shifts to November, it is becoming apparent   that basketball season is on the horizon. That means that it is time  for  our player previews of every member of Duke men's basketball. Read   the previous previews: Mike Buckmire, Michael Savarino, Kennan Worthington, Jaemyn Brakefield, Henry Coleman III, DJ Steward and Jeremy Roach.

Mark Williams

Year: Freshman

Height: 7-0

Position: Center

Last year’s stat line: N/A

Game breakdown: The No. 5 center in his class, per ESPN, has height and length that gives him an advantage over most opponents. At seven feet, he can actually grab the rim without jumping, and his 7-foot-4 wingspan makes him one of Duke’s longest players in recent memory. His combination of size and athleticism makes him an excellent finisher inside, and he can be ferocious on the glass thanks to a quick second jump. He is also smart with the ball and efficient scoring inside, evidenced by his 76 percent shooting in the 2019 Nike EYBL Peach Jam.

He doesn’t yet have a phenomenal jump shot, but Williams will stroke it from behind the arc if he is open. The Virginia Beach, Va. native is a strong post defender, stifles guards driving inside, and will likely spot up in the post or get involved via the pick and roll offensively. He pointed out in a November 2019 blog that coaches showed him footage of Wendell Carter Jr, and suggested he would be used similarly—mostly low post action on both sides of the ball and stretching the floor when needed. 

Role on the team: At this point, Williams is the frontrunner to lineup for the opening tip later this month. Given the void left by Vernon Carey and Javin DeLaurier in the paint, Williams will be an anchor for the defensive unit. His main responsibility on the court will likely involve defending close shots, getting rebounds and finding the open man if the putback isn’t available. As the athlete he is, Williams also figures to be the man the backcourt finds for the electrifying alley-oop finish. 

He figures to get most of the minutes at the five, while head coach Mike Krzyzewski has the depth to integrate freshman Jaemyn Brakefield and grad transfer Patrick Tapé into the mix as well. However, if the Blue Devils fall back on their smaller lineup, the center position would likely belong to Tape or even sophomore Matthew Hurt, giving Williams some time off the court.

Watch for Williams to showcase his size on both sides of the ball as he makes the case to be a centerpiece for the Blue Devils this season. He has the potential to be the underlooked component that will allow Duke to exploit tough conference opponents.

NBA comparison: Williams won’t be getting as many chances to score as he did in high school, and he will have to continue to develop a jump shot and gain more muscle to keep up with the NBA game, but for now he compares well with the Nets’ Jarrett Allen. Both are tall and can be known for their emphatic rim protection and aggressiveness on the glass. Williams certainly has NBA potential and likely will find that his niche moving forward is going to be centered around rim protection and grabbing rebounds to extend possessions.

Projected stats: 7.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.3 BPG


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