Alan Williams stepped into the void left by Orlando Johnson to become the go-to offensive player at UC-Santa Barbara, as he saw his usage increase an already significant 23% to 34%, one of the highest rates in college basketball. Williams was one of the most productive players in the country last year, which helped him to be named to the Big West's All-First team. With the core of his teammates returning, Williams will hope to replicate his individual success while helping the Gauchos improve on their dismal 11-20 record (7-11 in-conference).
Williams is an undersized center, listed at only 6'7 and 240 pounds, albeit with long arms and gigantic hands. His athletic tools are merely average, although he is very strong and surprisingly agile for his size, showing very nimble feet. Williams plays with a high level of energy on the offensive end, although he doesn't work as hard on the defensive side. He doesn't have a high level of explosiveness, which makes his dominant rebounding ability that much more impressive.
What will jump out at scouts is indeed that ability to rebound, especially on the offensive end. Williams shot only 46% from the field but this low percentage was somewhat mitigated by his 5.6 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted which ranked seventh in the nation
last season, down from first in the nation the season before
. Many come off his own attempts close at the rim but Williams also showed a tenacity to crash the glass and grab loose balls, reading the ball well off the rim and positioning himself well to get the rebound. This is the skill that will keep scouts most interested in him, so he needs to continue dominating this area in the upcoming season.
Most of Williams' offense comes from the post, as 47.6% of his offensive possessions were categorized as post-ups by Synergy Sports Technology. He has the strength needed to gain position on the block, and once he makes the catch, he has nice footwork for a player his size and is able to maneuver around his defender to get to the rim. Despite being a largely below the rim player, he has a solid drop step, a deft up and under move, and a reliable hook shot in his arsenal. Williams draws fouls at an extremely high rate, getting to the free throw line nearly nine times per-40 minutes, one the best rates among college basketball prospects. Williams is often double and tripled teamed in conference play and while he sometimes struggles scoring against multiple defenders, he has shown the ability to pass out of these situations to the open players on the perimeter.
He has shown some nice skills in the post, but scouts may wonder whether he will be able to recreate this success in the NBA, as he will be much smaller than the defenders he is matched up against. He was not as productive against higher level competition last season as he was in the Big West, so there are legit question marks about his ability to be effective against taller, stronger and more athletic big men at the next level.
Almost all of Williams' shot attempts come in the paint, as he rarely stepped outside the paint for jump shots. His shooting mechanics need a lot of work, starting from his base and up to his release point. In his few mid-range attempts, it's easy to see that Williams is not close to being a threat from the mid-range at this stage, even though he did shoot a solid 71% from the free throw line, indicating he might have some potential here down the road.
Defensively, UCSB played a zone most of last season, so Williams did not get a chance to show much individual defensive ability. He is undersized to guard a post player and not agile enough to guard a perimeter player, so he would likely be at an immediate disadvantage in this area in the NBA, although better conditioning could help in this area. Williams' intensity level left a lot to be desired last season, as he gave little resistance to opponents catching the ball on the block and finishing over him. While he shows terrific dexterity for a player his size, he didn't always move his feet well as he could, often being at a standstill in the paint, allowing opponents to move freely around him.
He did hustle at times to close out and showed some impressive acceleration for a player of his speed, but he had trouble controlling himself on these closeouts, which led him to foul the shooter or take himself out of the play. His 4.5 fouls per 40 minutes hurt his ability to stay on the floor, as he only averaged 28 minutes per game last season, mainly due to foul trouble.
Williams' long arms, surprisingly agility, excellent timing and superb hands have made him a very productive shot-blocker the past two seasons, to the tune of over 3 blocks per-40 minutes the past two seasons. His conditioning-level looks nowhere near full potential, as he sports a significant amount of baby fat, so it's possible that with a better nutrition and strength program he could still improve his physical tools, not unlike what DeJuan Blair did after college.
What he does well on the defensive end is control the glass, much like he does offensively. His 9.5 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted ranked 5th in the nation
last season, which means he was the top overall rebounder in the country. Playing in a zone defense without a three second violation, he was able to stay in the paint and grab nearly every loose ball, as he has the timing and instincts to know where the ball is going to come off the rim, the strength to hold off opponents, and suction cups for hands, which allows him to gobble up pretty much every loose ball even remotely in his area.
While it would be nice to see an expanded offensive game from Williams this season, he has garnered attention from NBA scouts based on his rebounding ability and will need to continue to focus on dominating both ends of the court in this area again this year. Williams will have a chance to showcase his skills against tough competition early on, as UCSB travels to Colorado and UCLA and hosts California in their non-conference slate. Scouts will likely want to see what additional value Williams can provide, particularly defensively, but he has at least gotten their attention with his dominant rebounding ability, and should be monitored closely, as players in his mold have proven to be very valuable commodities at times.