Is Jaylin Williams ready for a 'dominant role'?
After a strong showing in two NCAA Tournament games off the bench, the rising senior looks primed for a key spot on an evolving roster.
PF Jaylin Williams (Jacob Taylor/Auburn Athletics)
Shortly after Auburn’s second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament, Bruce Pearl was asked about the frontcourt player sitting next to him at the podium.
For one of the only times during the Tigers’ title-winning campaign, Pearl wasn’t being asked about the top performance from Jabari Smith or Walker Kessler. He was being asked about Jaylin Williams, who tied for the team high with 12 points in just 18 minutes in a 79-61 loss to a Miami team that ran all the way to the Elite Eight.
“Yeah, man, I'm excited to build it next year around Jaylin,” Pearl said. “We have been the winningest program in the SEC over the last five years. We've won three championships in five years. I take great pride in the consistency of our program's success, and I'm ready to build it back.”
A little more than two weeks later, Pearl held his first press conference since the end of the season. Smith and Kessler had both declared for the NBA Draft earlier in the week. His top returning frontcourt piece will, in fact, be Williams.
And, when discussing what the team could do with its open scholarship spots, Pearl doubled down on his comments about Williams.
“I expect Jaylin Williams to have a dominant role next year,” Pearl said. “And he is ready. He took one for the team this year, and he competed with Jabari, but Jabari was the best player on the floor every single night. So I think that was obvious to everybody.”
This time last year, Williams was coming off a season when he was arguably the Tigers’ best season-long player. Here’s a look back at his statistical impact:
While Williams didn’t lead Auburn in any of the traditional stat categories, the advanced numbers loved him. Only (Justin) Powell had higher marks in offensive rating and effective field goal percentage. His defensive rating was the third-best among scholarship players. He was second on the team in win shares and, by season’s end, tops among Auburn’s active players in win shares per 40 minutes and PER. His box plus/minus of 6.6 led all Auburn players, too.
Williams was Auburn’s best two-way player this season and emerged as a vital leader for the program. Even when he didn’t have strong scoring or rebounding stat lines, he was usually at the top in plus/minus for the game. He has a strong all-around game — plus the added bonus of being the Tigers’ top secondary playmaker — that makes him a tough matchup, even though he’s an undersized center by SEC standards.