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Louisville basketball player preview: Malik Williams

The junior captain will be sidelined to start the season, but figures to make a huge impact when healthy.

Player Spotlight: Malik Williams

Class: Junior

Position: Forward/Center

Height: 6’11

Weight: 245

Hometown: Fort Wayne, IN

When Louisville begins its season on November 5, they are most likely going to be doing so without one of their three captains, Malik Williams. Malik is recovering from surgery to repair a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot. The injury happened on September 20 and the recovery timeframe given was 6-8 weeks.

Last week at ACC Media Day, Chris Mack said that Williams is still on that timetable and that he likely will not be ready for the season opener. This is not an injury that they will want to rush him back from, as it could end up lingering throughout the season if they do so. After the season opener against Miami, Louisville plays six games that they should be heavily favored in before Michigan comes to town on December 3. So they really shouldn’t have to rush him back and risk further injury. You probably want to see him back a couple games before we get into December so he can knock some rust off and get going for the likes of Michigan, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech, and Kentucky before ACC play really gets going in January.

When he is on the floor, Malik is one of the better defenders on the team and averaged 1.2 blocks last season. He was the fifth leading scorer at 7.7 points per game and the third leading rebounder with 6.1 per game. Those are really good numbers considering he only played 18.2 minutes per game. He did start the last 20 games of the season, but was really in a timeshare with Steven Enoch, regardless of who was starting.

With Aidan Igiehon now in the mix and able to play in the post and backup Enoch, this could allow Chris Mack to play Enoch and Williams at the same time. Dwayne Sutton played 31.4 minutes per game last season, and Mack said he wants to get him more rest because he wore down at the end of the year. So you could see some instances where the Cards cause some matchup problems by having both big men out there.

Williams has shown his ability to step out and knock down the three. He shot 31.8%, which isn’t great, but it’s good enough that teams have to respect it. I still think that some people are of the mindset that your “center” should never shoot threes, but that’s just not the world we live in anymore. Kids grow up working on just about everything these days, including shooting from deep. Blame (or credit) guys like Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki for instilling this mindset in kids that everyone can shoot from the outside, regardless of height. Centers don’t just hang out on the block the whole game now. Williams is much more of a “stretch four” than a true center. He will make some moves in the post, but prefers to face the basket and make his moves from there.

While he is one of the better defenders on the team, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out a major area of improvement that is needed from last season. Whenever teams would set a ball screen and it was his man setting the screen, he normally came out to hedge WAY too far and it allowed the ball handler to just split the defenders and get to the basket, while Malik had taken himself completely out of the play. It obviously was not 100% of the time, but trust me, it happened a lot.

All in all, this team will need Williams to be back at full strength, but can probably afford to give him the time he really needs. No need to rush and risk it. And when he does come back, he gives the Cards a big man that can score in the post, face up and hit the mid-range shot, step out and make the three, and block shots at the rim. On top of all of that, he was voted a team captain by his teammates, which says a lot about how they view him and his leadership.

Here are some highlights from his sophomore season. This really shows everything that he brings.