The largest of the four freshmen in Arkansas basketball’s star-studded class of 2020 is the 6’9″, 230 pound center/power forward, Jaylin Williams.
The big man is expected to take on an even bigger role in 2020-21 after the June 15th announcement that Arkansas’ Reggie Chaney is hitting the transfer portal ahead of his junior season.
In two seasons at Arkansas, Chaney struggled to find a consistent role. He typically fills in an off-the-bench, small ball center role, but was not able to sustain consistent production in his time as a Hog.
In this, his second summer at Arkansas, the team’s landscape changed dramatically. Head coach Eric Musselman landed three versatile transfers, including two in Justin Smith and Vance Jackson who are expected to fill the role many hoped Chaney would.
Williams comes into this season as the 78th ranked player in the 2021 class according to 247Sports Composite rankings. Even as the third-highest rated freshman on the Razorbacks’ roster, a top 100 ranking brings a certain amount of pressure and responsibility with it. Especially when you’re a 6’9″, physical force joining a team that ranked dead last in the SEC in rebounding last season.
Jaylin Williams is known for being a tenacious rebounder on both ends of the court. His impact, along with that of the incoming transfers, will be felt immediately. But how does his role differ from the others? What does the departure of Reggie Chaney change?
Razorbacks’ Big Rotation
Williams differs from the 6’9″, 230 pound Vance Jackson and 6’7″, 230 pound Justin Smith in his size and strength and willingness to use both down low. Granted, both Jackson and Smith have proven themselves as capable D1 athletes. Their arrival is nothing short of huge for the Hogs, figuratively and literally. However, at 6’9 and full of raw potential, Williams will fill a different role entirely than either of the new combo forwards.
It’s realistic to assume that former California big man Connor Vanover will open the season in the starting lineup. He stands at a towering 7’3 and boasts the ability to shoot the long ball. Vanover can be categorized as a modern day “Unicorn,” i.e. an oversized big capable of shooting from range.
However, his lanky frame limits him greatly on the defensive side of the ball. His shot blocking is not as stellar as one might expect from a 7’3 center, and his inability to move his feet quickly when defending outside the paint will be a matchup issue to monitor. Vanover being caught in pick and roll situations holds the potential to quickly create problems on that side of the ball. Fortunately, Arkansas Eric Musselman now has an antidote for quicker, big man opponents.
Enter Jaylin Williams.
Despite filling out his 6’9 frame, Williams possesses above average mobility for a big man. He’s capable of containing guards on the perimeter for short stints, rotating quickly, and even taking charges like fellow Fort Smith Northside alum, Isaiah Joe.
Indeed, during this past season at Northside, Williams averaged 18.7 points and 12.2 rebounds while adding 2.5 blocks and 2.7 assists per contest.
Perhaps just as valuable is the lack of a drop off offensively when Williams subs in for Vanover. The 7’3 big man is well known amongst fans for his ability to shoot, but Williams can more than hold his own when shooting from distance himself. His immense versatility and potential make him an intriguing prospect to watch under coach Eric Musselman’s guidance.
When Jaylin erupted for 33 points against a 5-star big man:
We’ve established that Williams is expected to play a major part on next year’s team, but how much bigger will his role be without Reggie Chaney on the roster? It’s not unreasonable to guess that Chaney was informed that his playing time would be limited this season due to the large number of versatile forwards joining the roster. If Chaney was informed he wouldn’t get the minutes he was hoping for, it’s possible Williams’ overall minutes won’t change much with the departure. Still, as the 2020-21 season progresses, expect William’s role to expand.
Regardless of who opens the season as the starting center, my expectation is for Williams to crack the starting five by mid-January. With Chaney no longer available, the only other options Musselman has at center are Vanover, Ethan Henderson, or some version of small ball with either Jackson or Smith playing the five. It’s possible that Musselman may use the 6’9″, 200 pound shot blocker Abayomi Iyiola in some situations, but expect Iyiola to get the least minutes of the bigs.
Vanover, like most lanky big men standing well over 7 feet tall, is vulnerable to injury. Henderson has been less than consistent in his first two years as a Razorback, on and off the court. Jackson or Smith filling out the five would make for an intriguing lineup, but likely not one that would likely work well against the best big men in the SEC.
The weight rests on Williams’ shoulders. Despite having varying lineup options, Williams likely holds the key to long-term success. He’s capable of holding his own on both ends of the court, regardless of his opponent’s size. His shooting and offensive potential make him a threat on both ends of the court. Now that Chaney is gone, Musselman’s safety blanket becomes a little thinner. With other options being limited in some capacity by height, shooting, or defensive mobility, it’s not outlandish to expect Williams to be the number one option at center before long.
Prediction for Jaylin Williams’ stats
Offensively, this team is loaded with scoring options, especially if sharpshooter Isaiah Joe comes back for his junior season. Because of this, Williams will not be expected to carry much of the scoring load. This bodes well for the 2020 Gatorade Arkansas Player of the Year as he possesses more raw potential than polished offensive skills at this point in his career. Williams is a good passer for his position and has high IQ, especially for a true freshman. I expect him to be among the team leaders in rebounds per game and contribute based on team need in other categories.
Defensively, Williams is just as capable as any other big in the lineup. His knack for playing with high IQ and taking charges will prove especially valuable. Sharing minutes with the other power forwards/centers on the roster will hurt his overall numbers, but make no mistake, his presence on the court will be felt.
Official Season Prediction:
Hear Jaylin talk about his expected role on the team at the 5:00 mark below:
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Author: Brandon Baker
Contributor and Senior Writer for overtimeheroics.net
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