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Williams Stays Confident

Lobo Guard Trying To Find His Shot

Williams Stays ConfidentBy Mark SmithJournal Staff Writer

Sophomore slump or simply a slow start?

New Mexico men’s basketball player Kendall Williams has not gotten out of the gates as expected, but says he’s confident he’ll turn around his inconsistent start.

Missouri State at UNM, 8 p.m.
TV: The mtn. (DirecTV 616; Comcast 276)
Radio: KKOB-AM (770)

“It’s a long season and it (can) change at any time – like Saturday,” Williams said of the Lobos’ game against Missouri State (4-1) in the Pit.

“My shot’s not falling, turnovers are high. But Saturday’s a new day.”

Williams, a preseason first-team All-Mountain West Conference pick, is averaging 10.3 points per game and is leading the Lobos (5-2) in assists with 5.3 per game. But he has struggled shooting the ball (34.0 percent from the field and 20.0 percent from 3-point range) and has a team-high 24 turnovers.

That’s been quite a change from last season, when the 6-foot-3 guard from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., was named MWC freshman of the year while averaging 11.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists a game. He shot 45.4 percent from the floor and 42.6 percent from 3-point range.

“He’s leading us in assists by quite a lot,” said UNM coach Steve Alford. “He’s just having some tough turnovers. But there’s a lot of pressure there, and he’s learning to deal with it. But he’s worked hard defensively, and has given us a lot of energy.”

Williams’ role has changed this season. He came into the year needing to be a go-to guy, as well as a part-time point guard after the graduation of Dairese Gary, a four-year starter at point. He said he might be pressing more this season.

“Maybe, a little bit,” he said. “I’m still trying to steer my head right, and it’s still early enough to use that excuse. But as we get more into this season, I think I’m starting to get more into my role. I’ve just got to keep my head right, that’s the simple solution, instead of being so erratic. It’s not difficult to keep the assists up while turning down the mistakes.”

Now that freshman Hugh Greenwood has clearly established himself as this year’s starting point, that should allow Williams to return to his role as a primary scorer.

In the meantime, if Williams continues to suffer turnovers, that could open the door for sophomore Demetrius Walker – who sat out last season as a redshirt after transferring from Arizona State. The 6-2 Walker is averaging 18 minutes per game, but is scoring eight points per game with 2.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per outing.

And that’s not the best part.

“My biggest thing, is when I get in, I want to be an impact on defense first,” Walker said. “I feel I can change the tempo as far as defense is concerned; that’s my job. Offense will come. The coaches told me not to worry about that, they know I’m a great scorer. But we need someone who is a lock-down defender. I want to be that guy.”

When asked if he’s anxious to get more playing time, Walker didn’t shy from answering.

“Honestly, yes,” said Walker, who brings an enormous amount of energy to the floor. “But if I don’t, I don’t – it is what it is. The biggest thing for me, is not who starts the game, it’s who coach trusts to end the game. In Anaheim (Calif., where the Lobos went 2-1 in the 76 Classic), I was one of the five in the end of the game and closing the game.”

JARION SIGNS – AGAIN: Controversial former Lobo recruit Jarion Henry, a 6-9 guard out of Dallas who signed a national letter of intent last spring to play for UNM this season, signed with Oklahoma on Wednesday.

Henry, whose incessant tweeting and profanity-laced YouTube video caused a stir in Albuquerque, failed to graduate high school over the summer and is at La Jolla Prep Basketball Academy. In September, he said he was still planning to eventually join UNM. But in early October he posted, on his Twitter account, that he was having second thoughts. Alford then cut ties with Henry.

HOME AFTER HOLIDAY: The Lobos’ 65-41 romp over Idaho State (1-5) on Wednesday was their first game in the Pit since losing to New Mexico State on Nov. 16.

New Mexico won at Arizona State on Nov. 18 then finished fifth in the three-game 76 Classic during Thanksgiving weekend.

Alford said it was a long stretch for his bunch, and the trips took their toll, but he was pleased with the effort against the Bengals.

“The guys played hard. Hugh (Greenwood) said he had trouble getting his second wind. I told him (it’s) because his first dunk of the year took a lot out of him,” Alford said with a laugh. “Sometimes you can’t count on all the travel. These guys have been in hotel rooms for a while. We’ve got to get back to kind of a normal schedule, and hopefully by the time we get to the weekend we can get some rest.”

Greenwood had a breakaway slam after a Williams steal and assist during a 14-1 run that put the Lobos ahead for good in the first half.
Lobo Guard Trying To Find His Shotjournal fileNew Mexico’s Kendall Williams, left, is shooting only 34 percent from the field this season.Missouri State at UNM, 8 p.m.TV: The mtn. (DirecTV 616; Comcast 276)Radio: KKOB-AM (770)

— This article appeared on page D3 of the Albuquerque Journal