Christian Williams shows scoring prowess in PTL breakout

Chad Leistikow
Christian Williams struggled in his first two PTL games, but found a rhythm Sunday night with 26 points and 14 rebounds.

NORTH LIBERTY, Ia. – Christian Williams was a late addition to Fran McCaffery's 2015 Iowa basketball recruiting class. So it might be fitting that his game has been slow arriving at the Prime Time League.

But things are starting to click for Williams, both on and off the court.

Williams scored 26 points Sunday night in his team's summer-league loss at the North Liberty Community Center. He looked like a completely different player than in his first two PTL games — in which he totaled six points.

After that, he heard from Iowa assistant coach Kirk Speraw and Hawkeye point guard Mike Gesell — a PTL teammate — that he needed to be more aggressive. Sunday, he made 11 of 19 shots (including 4-for-5 from 3-point range) and grabbed 14 rebounds.

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"Coach Speraw, he actually talked to me. I told him I wasn't really comfortable yet," Williams said. "But I think I'm getting the hang of it now. I'm starting to do what I do.

"That's usually my game. During open gyms, Mike tells me that's what I need to do in PTL, because I do it all the time in practice."

Having been in Iowa City for about a month now, Williams has found comfort away from basketball, too, with fellow freshman newcomers Andrew Fleming, Brandon Hutton and Ahmad Wagner. They go to class together, they eat meals together and, of course, they hoop together. He said he's been in touch with a fifth incoming freshman, Chicago's Isaiah Moss, who is hoping to have academic hurdles cleared so he can arrive on campus this fall.

"Some people said I would get homesick, but I haven't really felt that yet," Williams said. "The four freshmen, we all like each other. We hang out with each other all the time."

What Williams' role will be on this upcoming Hawkeye team remains to be seen.

The 6-foot-6 native of Decatur, Ill., who was offered a scholarship late in the recruiting process by McCaffery, committed to the Hawkeyes after leading his high school team to the state championship game in March.

Williams could play the 1, 2 or 3 in McCaffery's motion offense, but prefers the point — a byproduct of his role as a dual-threat quarterback on the high school football team. Though he said he received Big Ten Conference interest on the gridiron, he quit after his junior season to focus on basketball.

"I actually played quarterback ever since I was 5-years-old. ... I just feel like I'm better with the ball in my hands," Williams said.

So it's natural that he would envision his future at Iowa as a point guard. However, he knows he'll be behind seniors Gesell and Anthony Clemmons for his first season.

"For right now, I just kind of want to be a role player and learn from those guys and then try to step in next year," Williams said, "because I know we won't have any other point guards except for me. So that'll be a big stage for me."