What has gotten into Jaylin Williams?
During Auburn's winning streak, the stoic senior has exploded for 17.8 points per game. The secret is what happened behind the scenes.
PF Jaylin Williams (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
The response could only be classified as vintage Jaylin Williams.
Late Saturday night, after Auburn blasted Chattanooga by 35 points, Williams was asked about his individual performance.
“I’d say it’s just making shots,” Williams responded in his usual low, easy-going tone. “Really, just putting myself in position, just being aggressive, just having confidence. That’s all. I mean, looks are open. I take open shots. I’ve gotta make open shots.”
It was a nonchalant answer for what was anything but a nonchalant performance: Williams scored 21 points and did not miss a single shot attempt. He was perfect on his 2-point field goal attempts for the second straight game, cashed in on both of his 3-point attempts and knocked down his lone and-one free throw.
If he would have hit just one more shot, he would have tied the legendary Charles Barkley — one of the very best to ever play the game of basketball, in Auburn or anywhere else in the world — for the Tigers’ all-time single-game record for most field goal attempts without a miss.
Yet Williams’ casual attitude toward the unbelievable achievement had to be expected. That’s what Auburn fans have seen from the Georgia native for the last several seasons, where he’s gone from a freshman spark plug to a fifth-year senior who is now the winningest player in Auburn basketball history.
This is the same player who, when asked about his reaction to scoring his 1,000th career point, simply replied with “It’s about time — I’ve been around a little while.”
On an Auburn team where the explosive celebrations and personalities from the likes of K.D. Johnson, Dylan Cardwell and now Chad Baker-Mazara run rampant, Williams is always cool, calm and collected.
Just look at this 3-pointer from late in the Chattanooga win: Johnson sells the flashy assist by turning and celebrating before Williams even shoots the ball. Cardwell falls on the ground after it goes in, and his teammates mob him.
Williams just holds his form for a little while longer and runs back on defense.
Williams will throw down a massive dunk or drill a long-range jumper and celebrate it like a standard layup at the rim. His lack of a trademark celebration has become a trademark celebration itself.
And Williams has had quite a lot of moments to no-sell celebrate over the last few weeks.
During the Tigers’ current five-game winning streak, Williams is averaging 17.8 points per game, shooting a remarkable 77.1% from 2-point range and 46.2% from 3-point range. He’s made 14 straight 2-point attempts, posting 7-7 lines in back-to-back games. On the season, he is now shooting 81% at the rim, which demonstrates his ability to score through contact, use the glass in creative ways and finish lobs.
His heat map of shot attempts over the last five games makes him look like the ideal Pearl player: Cashing in on frees, threes and layups as much as possible.
Williams has almost doubled his career count for 20-point outings, and he’s been a team-best +101 in plus/minus over the course of the five victories. According to CBB Analytics, Williams is carrying a team-best net rating of +35.1 during this winning streak.
“Jaylin Williams is playing his best basketball right now,” head coach Bruce Pearl said. “I’m really happy for him and proud of him. And he’s doing it on both ends of the floor, and he’s doing it unselfishly and really efficiently. And he’s doing it athletically. You’re starting to see the real athleticism that he possesses and the upside.”
Make no mistake about it: While Williams might look like he’s playing on cruise control during this ridiculous individual tear, it’s been a product of an incredible amount of work away from the spotlight.
And it all started at the lowest point of Auburn’s season so far.