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Duke men's basketball 2021-22 player review: Mark Williams

Mark Williams won ACC Defensive Player of the Year in his sophomore season at Duke.
Mark Williams won ACC Defensive Player of the Year in his sophomore season at Duke.

With Duke’s season officially in the books, the Blue Zone breaks down each player's season, including comparisons to their preseason projections. We previously looked at Jaylen Blakes, Bates Jones, Joey Baker, Theo John, Trevor Keels, AJ Griffin and Jeremy Roach. Next up is Mark Williams:

Mark Williams

Season breakdown: Williams returned for his sophomore season with the Blue Devils. Last season, the center started out slow but turned into a dominant presence during the ACC tournament. He continued that interior play this season, ranking fourth on the team in scoring and second in rebounding while averaging the most blocks with 2.8 per game and shooting a team-high 72.1% from the field. He logged his first double-double of the season against Lafayette, putting up 14 points, 15 rebounds—including eight offensive—and four blocks. The sophomore scored a career-high 28 points against Syracuse. Before long, it became clear that Williams would be Duke’s designated paint presence on both ends of the court.

In the postseason, Williams became the X-factor for this contending Duke team. He opened up the ACC tournament with a dominant performance on both ends, posting 15 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks against the Orange. In the Blue Devils’ loss to Virginia Tech in the conference tournament championship game, Wiliams had a quiet game with eight points and three rebounds. During the NCAA tournament, the big man scored 15, 15, 16 and 12 points in the first four rounds, respectively, to help Duke reach the Final Four. In Duke’s loss to North Carolina in the national semifinal, however, Williams ended his double-figure scoring streak with eight points and four rebounds after getting in foul trouble. More often than not, Duke’s success depended on Williams’ play. 

Results relative to expectations: Duke came in with a size advantage behind freshman forward Paolo Banchero and graduate transfer Theo John, but it was Williams who was the primary interior presence for the Blue Devils. He came into the season expected to have the experience and preparation to fill that role, and he did just that, improving his stats across the board. He was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and became the only qualified college player to shoot better than 70% from the field and the free throw line. As he continues on in his career, he should pride himself on his size, energy and talent. Moving forward, he can look toward integrating more footwork and shooting to round out an already impressive arsenal of abilities.


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