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March 9, 2014

Williams Earns Wanted Respect

A year ago, West Virginia center Devin Williams, in his final season at Montverde Academy was scheduled to play against Huntington Prep and star guard Andrew Wiggins.

Williams wanted to show the world that he could play against top-notch competition like Wiggins. The problem was the two prep teams were supposed to meet in Louisville but a snow storm rolled in, messed up travel plans and forced the schools to cancel the game.

"When I was in high school I watched him (Wiggins) and other guys who got attention. I always felt I was right there with those guys," said Williams.

A month ago when West Virginia traveled to Allen Fieldhouse, Williams was given a chance to play against Wiggins. He let that opportunity slip by when he received a few early fouls and only registered 12 minutes in the game.

Yesterday, Williams was granted the opportunity to prove that he could play with the best again when Kansas and Wiggins made the return trip to Morgantown.

"It wasn't personal at all. It was just more of a respect thing," Williams said. "Anytime I step onto the court it is going to be more about respect. Playing the game you always want to earn respect and that's all I was going out there to do."

He stayed out of foul trouble and registered a career-high 22 points while tying a career-high in rebounds with 13. Williams earned the respect he so desperately wanted.

"Williams was by far the best big man in the game," said Kansas Coach Bill Self.

The six-foot-nine, 255-pound freshman began the game seven of seven from the field carrying West Virginia through the first half as they built a 50-38 halftime lead.

"I think I picked my spots a little bit better. I stayed patient, but my first thought was to hit the boards more than score today," Williams explained. "Then it just started rolling. I got a rebound, and then I hit a shot. Then I got another rebound, and I made a good outlet pass, so it really all just came together."

Wiggins played extremely well too on the other putting together a game-high 41 points, but it was Williams' performance that gave his team a better chance to win the game. The Jayhawks were without their start center Joel Embiid.

Williams took advantage and Kansas had no one to match up with his size.

"Devin played really well. He scored through contact and made open shots, which he does in practice," said WVU Coach Bob Huggins. "He's good at shooting those and he's also our one guy who can really go into a crowd and rebound."

Even teammate Kevin Noreen was impressed by the performance.

"That was probably one of the best performances of the year in the Big 12," said Noreen. "We just wanted to get him through the first timeout without too many fouls or getting tired and he did that. He got through the second timeout too. He shot well and carried us."

As for Williams, he believes he learned a little bit about his game moving forward. And after wanting all that respect from others, it maybe is what he proved to himself that benefits WVU in the future.

"I learned just how dominant I can be and how I can affect the game on both ends of the floor," said Williams. "When I'm into the game it is a little different."

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