Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Latavious Williams Likely Leaving Memphis For Europe

While there is still uncertainty on whether Latavious Williams is officially leaving Memphis or not, the general consensus now appears to be that he will. ESPN's Andy Katz is already claiming that Williams left for Europe to get a pay day, and that probably was a major factor. But as I said almost two months ago when he first committed to Memphis, a big key was academics. There was almost no chance that he'd be eligible to play in the fall semester, and questions still abounded for the second semester. Things might have been different if he expected to stay at Memphis for several years, but he was almost certainly going to be a one-and-done player. No reason to go to college for half of a season, especially if you might not even get to play.

That said, if Williams is indeed gone, this makes the 2009-10 status of Elliot Williams essential. Without Latavious, Memphis is now dreadfully thin all over the court. The only returning players they have over 6'5" tall are Wesley Witherspoon, Pierre Henderson-Niles and Angel Garcia. Witherspoon and Henderson-Niles were both distant bench presences last season, combining for 26 minutes and 4 points per game. Garcia redshirted his freshman season and is an unknown. Incoming Juco transfer Will Coleman was an after-thought in John Calipari's original recruiting class, but could potentially be the best inside presence that Memphis will now have. Martin Ngaloro is another recruit, and at 6'8" could be a decent player someday, but seems to be a project who won't do too much as a freshman.

Memphis does have four solid guards, but they've only got four of them if Elliot Williams can't play. Preston Laird and Willie Kemp will split time at the point guard position, which leaves Doneal Mack and Roburt Sallie. I'd expect to see those two playing the 2- and 3-spots on the floor for Memphis a lot of the time. Without Elliot Williams, it's difficult to see how those four players can combine to fill up those three spots on the floor - they'd all be playing 30-35 minutes per game, which will wear them all out. Besides, it's tough to see Laird and Kemp on the floor at the same time, since neither is really built to play anything other than point guard.

If Elliot Williams can play then this fills a lot of needs. He can play the 2- or the 3-spots, which would allow him to rotate in and out of those positions with Mack and Sallie, with Laird and Kemp able to play only at point guard. This would allow the limited inside players that Memphis has to only be used at two positions. If Elliot Williams can't play, who else is there that can play the 3-position? Latavious Williams would have been perfect. Without him, I just don't see who is athletic enough. Possibly Wesley Witherspoon, although I think he's too slow.

I'll be sure to have a new post when the Elliot Williams status is officially decided. At that point we can try to fit where they belong in the 2010 Tournament bracket, or decide if they belong at all, with more accuracy. A starting lineup of Willie Kemp, Doneal Mack, Elliot Williams, Wesley Witherspoon and Will Coleman would be easily the best in Conference USA. Throw in Roburt Sallie, Angel Garcia and Pierre Henderson-Niles as your 8-man rotation and that's the best 8-man rotation in Conference USA. But if Elliot Williams can't play, as I've shown, things suddenly get really difficult. Tulsa is going to be a very good team in 2009-10, and don't be shocked to see them knock off an Elliot Williams-less Memphis team.

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