Column: It’s Time for Grant Williams to Be Treated Like a Star

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    Photo By Kyle Zedaker/Tennessee Athletics

    Sophomore forward Grant Williams just posted a career-high 37 points as the Vols mounted a second half comeback against Vanderbilt on Tuesday night and won 92-84 in Nashville. The Vols rode Williams’ dominant performance, and he proved in that one game alone that he’s a star player.

    But that hasn’t been the only time that Williams has showed his brilliance. In fact, he’s already proven in less than 50 total games in college basketball that he’s a star. And it’s time he’s treated like one.

    Williams’ 37 points against Vanderbilt was the most by a Vol since Ron Slay scored 38 points against New Mexico on January 4th, 2003. Tuesday’s game marked the third time in his career that Williams scored 30 or more points, and that total ties him with six other Vols for the 13th-most such occurrences by a single player in school history.

    And Williams has played in just 47 games in his Tennessee career. He has plenty of time left to build upon those numbers.

    In fact, the sophomore’s big night on Tuesday looks even better when put into a historical context. The University of Tennessee has played basketball for 109 years and have played approximately 2,652 games in that span. And of those 2,652 games, there have been only 20 games in which a player scored more points than Williams in Tennessee history.

    When Williams is allowed to play his style of basketball, he flourishes. But unfortunately for him, he gets over-officiated more often than not.

    Of the 47 career games that Williams has played as of the writing of this article, he’s finished a game with four or more fouls 24 times. Williams has fouled out nine times in his Tennessee career and has finished with four fouls 15 times.

    Some of that has to do with Williams’ physical style of play. He’s going to pick up more fouls than most because of how he plays. But Vol fans can attest to the fact that Williams also gets called for an inordinate amount of off ball fouls and “phantom” calls.

    But when Williams is allowed to play, he shines.

    In the 24 games in which Williams has been called for four or more fouls, he’s averaging 14 points per game. But in the 23 games in which he picks up 23 or fewer fouls, he’s averaging 15.4 points per game, nearly a point and a half more than when he gets called for four or more fouls.

    And all three of Williams’ 30-point performances have come in games when he’s been called for three or fewer fouls.

    Most star players in the SEC and other conferences in college basketball get a “star whistle.” That means they do still get called for fouls, but they don’t pick up the soft fouls that Williams often gets called for. Williams has proven that he’s a star in the SEC, and it’s time he gets treated like one.

    Officials need to stop with the phantom foul calls and stop with the weak whistles on Williams. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have any fouls called on him ever, but he deserves better officiating (we all do, to be honest).

    Let Williams shine like the star he is. Because he’s proven that when he’s allowed to play, he’s one of the best in the SEC.