Jaylin Williams is looking to expand his role going into his sophomore season. With the departure of most of last year’s key players, Williams is ready to seize his opportunity.
Coming strictly off the bench during his freshman campaign, Williams saw limited action and appeared in only 14 games. He made his presence known when he could, but his game needed an offseason to grow. Now, Williams thinks he’s begun his transformation to a much stronger player.
“This summer, I was just working on my game to improve in everything,” Williams said. “I’m still working on the same stuff — rebounding better, playing off two feet better and making plays.”
Williams is known for his high-flying prowess around the rim, in both rebounding and scoring. Against Tennessee, Williams threw a pass from the free-throw line, off the backboard to himself for a slam dunk. His long arms and great driving ability, along with a good mid-range shot, make him a tough matchup.
Teammate Allen Flanigan thinks that Williams’s game is even better now than before.
“He is a lot more athletic this season,” Flanigan said. “You saw the athleticism from him last year. He’s playing all over — above the rim, knocking down shots in practice, being able to put the ball down on the floor and playing defense, keeping guys in front and challenging them at the rim vertically.”
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During the offseason, Williams attributed his growth physically to training with the Auburn strength staff to help him grow into his long, 6-foot-8 frame.
“Working with Clark Pearson and Damon Davis, they really helped me with lifting and made me more athletic, helped my ankles get more flexible and being able to move better, which made me more athletic,” Williams said.
With a young team like Auburn, boasting only two juniors and no seniors, leadership is going to have to come from many young faces. Williams thinks his contribution to last year’s NCAA Tournament berth will help him lead his team back to the field of 64, and this year actually compete in it.
“I wish we could’ve played in the [NCAA] Tournament,” Williams said. “[The performances] push me to do more to become a better player for this season and to be more of a leader for this team. We’re a young team, so we’ve got to have a leader somewhere. I’m trying to fit that role of being a leader.”
Williams, who has been likened to a left-handed Chuma Okeke by his teammates, has to continue to grow his game all around to become a mainstay in the Auburn starting lineup. But the former 4-star recruit is motivated to be one of the starting five.
“I’ve been working really hard,” Williams said. “Last year motivated me to be better than I was, increase my minutes and do what I can to help the team win.”
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