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Recruiting: Freshman D.J. Williams Will Make Illinois Basketball More Athletic

D.J. Williams is a long, athletic wing. How will he impact an Illini team that has had a rough offseason?

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

A number of injuries and one dismissal have befallen the Illinois Fighting Illini this offseason. Coach John Groce has a little uncertainty heading into preparation for the 2015-16 season as his roster has rapidly thinned out, leaving the team with very little depth. With that he'll need the incoming freshmen class to make an impact if he wants to get his team back to the postseason in 2016.

A part of that freshmen class is D.J. Williams, a 6'7", 202 pound small forward. ESPN rates him as a 4-star recruit. He played nearby at the famed Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, Illinois where he drew interest from Michigan State, Florida and Nebraska, as well as offers from Depaul and SMU. He chose Illinois, which has successfully recruited from Simeon in the past (Nick Anderson, the late Ben Wilson). How might D.J. Williams make an impact for Illinois basketball?

Scouting Report
Williams has a thin frame, but plays more physically than what might be expected. He's at an ideal size to impact the game from the wing with his reach and versatility. Williams will be able to exploit certain mismatches and use his length to score over smaller wings. He's smoother as an athlete, more than explosive, which isn't a knock, but it's just how he appears to play.

His mid-range game is fairly well developed for his youth. Williams can get to spots and pull up for jumpers all over the floor, proving to be a viable scorer. When he can't get all the way to the rim, he'll need to rely on that particular skill and it'll make him more dangerous. His length is an asset defensively too. Corralling quicker guards will be possible and he'll also be able to challenge shots, either on the perimeter or at the rim, without have to closeout all the way.

Areas for Improvement
Strength and maturing physically is certainly an area to improve. That being said, he doesn't appear as though the physicality will affect him greatly. When everything is said and done, it looks like Williams should be able to take whatever pounding will come in the Big Ten. Ballhandling and passing are continued areas of focus for Williams. He likely won't handle the ball terribly much for Illinois, but opportunities will exist for him to create off the dribble. That of course will be even more true this upcoming season as the Illini are thin at point guard, with their two most experienced options being offensive liabilities on a team that needs to improve their scoring. Williams will need to not only handle the ball in traffic, but also look for open teammates when other defenders collapse.

Williams could also develop a broader post game. Against smaller perimeter defenders Illinois could exploit mismatches in the post thanks to his size.  His length and athleticism should translate in that area, and again, he'll become quite dangerous offensively. Williams is aggressive and doesn't mind contact inside, so it ought to be a matter of coaching and refining that particular area of his game.

ESPN recruiting thinks he "could also be more of a factor on the glass given his length and quickness to the ball." Certainly, Williams has the frame to be more effective on the glass, but he will especially need to exploit mismatches.

Player Outlook
Illinois's offseason has had its share of turmoil, but its recruiting class has great promise. Include D.J. Williams in that mix; he'll make an immediate impact at Illinois. He played at a competitive high school program, many of his cohorts have landed Division I scholarships and the leap from high school to college shouldn't be as drastic compared to some incoming freshmen. However, he'll still need to transition to Big Ten basketball and the system Coach Groce hopes to employ.

His length and athleticism will translate immediately and he's fairly refined offensively. What remains is that continued development as an offensive threat and showing his wares on the glass and defensively. Either way, Williams has the foundation to be a good contributor (if not eventually a star) for Illinois basketball going forward.