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‘Junkyard dog’ Terrance Williams proves he belongs in Michigan’s rotation

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The true freshman lacks a natural position, but he checks all the boxes when it comes to intangibles.

Oakland v Michigan Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

A year ago, Terrance Williams was committed to Georgetown. The Washington D.C. native looked like a hometown hero candidate after he committed to Patrick Ewing during the summer before his senior year.

But by the end of December, Williams decided he wanted to play for a different former NBA star big man. He flipped his pledge to Juwan Howard and Michigan on New Year’s Day.

Twelve months later, he’s proving he belongs. On Sunday night, Williams made his presence known for the Wolverines. He scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting and grabbed four rebounds across 14 minutes in an 81-71 overtime win over Oakland.

Howard’s faith in Williams was most telling. As the game grew close down the stretch, Howard trusted the freshman to get the job.

“Terrance Williams is a competitor,” Howard told reporters during a Zoom call Tuesday. “It’s great to have a Terrance Williams on our team. That’s why we recruited him hard. It’s great to have him in our family because of how he competes, his knowledge for the game, being a high IQ player.”

Williams’ second-half impact was evident almost immediately after he checked in alongside freshman center Hunter Dickinson with 11:23 to play. The duo quickly found holes in the Golden Grizzlies’ 1-3-1 zone defense — something Michigan struggled to do for most of the first half.

Just two minutes after entering the game, Dickinson caught the ball in the short corner and slipped a bounce pass to Williams as he dove from the foul line. Williams caught the ball and finished through contact for the and-one, providing a much-needed spark to a team trailing by four at the time.

But as the game went on, Williams left crucial points at the free throw line. He shot 1-for-5 at the charity stripe in the game’s final 10 minutes and missed each of his final three attempts. After his postgame media availability, he went straight back to the Crisler Center court to work on his free throw shooting.

“That wasn’t scripted,” Howard said. “It wasn’t where it was coach-driven where I asked him to go out there and shoot free throws after the game. Terrance tok that upon himself because he’s very prideful. Competitive person. Knowing how he’s wired, he felt like he let his teammates down with the missed free throws. But this shows how much he wants to get better.”

Through two games, Williams has shown he can be a viable option for the Wolverines. What stands out, though, is his lack of a true position. At 6-foot-6, he can play both forward spots and even act as a small-ball ‘5’ against some teams, but none of them are a perfect match for his skill set.

But when it comes to intangibles, Williams checks all the boxes.

“He has a lot of heart, a lot of grit, a lot of toughness,” senior forward Isaiah Livers said Sunday. “That was something I had to build, being a better basketball player as I grew up. But he has it. He loves his brothers and I think that’s who he plays it for.”

Added Williams: “I just brought my game I had in high school. Coach Howard loves that I’m a junkyard dog. I feel like I was doing it the whole entire preseason.”

For now, that’s enough to carve out an important role in Michigan’s rotation.