NORMAN — I cover the Oklahoma women. I have for a long time, which can sometimes make it hard to write columns in which Sherri Coale’s basketball program is the subject.
In once instance, as a beat writer, a certain level of objectivity is required. In the other, additional freedom reigns.
Also, writing a column about that which is your beat can be a tricky compromise of roles, one always made easier when the subject matter is clearly positive, which makes today’s column a bit of a tightrope act.
Here’s the deal.
Kaylon Williams is the key to OU’s women’s basketball season.
Out all season a year ago with a torn Achilles tendon, playing less than 15 minutes a game through six games this season and not starting in what is still just her redshirt sophomore year, the Midwest City product, who stands in at a sturdy and athletic 6-3 and 213 pounds according to the program’s media guide, is nonetheless the key to the season.
Well, take a look.
Through six games, Williams is averaging 12 points an 5.5 rebounds.
You’re right, that doesn’t seem like much. But recall how many minutes she’s playing? Only 14.5. That means Williams is averaging 0.83 points per minute and 0.38 rebounds per minute (and that’s despite grabbing only four rebounds her last 24 minutes).
So maybe you’re thinking the problem is Coale, that she needs to play Williams more than 14.5. Well, she’d love to do that, only Williams is making it impossible.
To date, Williams has played 87 minutes and committed 23 fouls, and that after playing 16 minutes and committing only one foul opening night against Stetson.
Nobody on the team has committed more fouls, though Sharane Campbell and Gioya Carter have also committed 23. Of course, they’ve done it in 133 and 120 minutes, respectively.
Against UCLA Sunday, Williams scored 12 points in 12 minutes and fouled out in a game OU lost 82-76. Against Texas-Arlington, the game before, she scored 10 points in 12 minutes and committed four fouls. In the game before that, against No. 4 Louisville, she scored 10 points in 11 minutes and fouled out of what became a 97-92 overtime loss.
The Sooners have played some of their best minutes with Williams on the floor, maybe their very best against Louisville in the midst of a furious second-half comeback. Williams might well belong in the starting five, yet Coale can’t possibly pull the that trigger knowing there’s a really good chance Williams will be exiting after two quick fouls.
Sometimes, the numbers simply don’t lie. And sometimes, like this time, they’re not very kind to the Sooner sophomore.
On the other hand … if she could just stay out of foul trouble and play 25 or 30 minutes, imagine what she might do?
Actually, you can run the numbers on that, too.
A year ago, Brittney Griner averaged 30.8 minutes, 23.8 points and 9.4 rebounds for Baylor (she averaged 4.1 blocks, too, but we’re not going to hold Williams to that standard). That comes out to 0.77 points and 0.3 rebounds per minute for maybe the best player in the history of the women’s college game.
Well, Griner’s per-minute averages last season are not as high as Williams’ per-minute averages this season.
In fact, if Williams could play Griner’s minutes last season at the same productivity level she’s averaging through six games this season, she’d average 25.5 points and 11.7 rebounds.
She’s be an All-American.
Of course, you can make a case Griner’s not the best collegiate player of all time, that she wasn’t as good as Courtney Paris in ’05-’06 or ’06-’07, when the Sooner center averaged 29 minutes, 21.9 points and 15 rebounds (and 3.3 blocks) as a freshman and 30.3 minutes, 23.5 points and 15.9 rebounds (and 3.4 blocks) as a sophomore.
If Williams could keep herself on the court long enough to play the same minutes Paris played her sophomore season, she wouldn’t quite catch her on the boards, averaging 11.6 rebounds, but she’d pass her in the scorebook, averaging 25.2 points.
Paris was the national player of the year following the ’06-’07 season. If Williams could put up 25.2 and 11.6, she might get some votes.
Also, if you were wondering, OU leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg is averaging 19.3 points in 36 minutes for a per-minute average of 0.54. Williams’ per-minute average of 0.83 is more than 50 percent higher.
Maybe there will never be 36 minutes available to the young post. Maybe there will never be 30. But just imagine what Williams might do with 25?
Ellenberg and Morgan Hook and Sharane Campbell and Nicole Griffin can lead the Sooners a long way. But if Williams can keep herself on the court, OU can go so much further.
She’s the key to the season.
Follow me @clayhorning
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