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MCGILL: Freshmen Forwards Elevate Games for Frisco

Darius George, center, and Jannson Williams, right.
Darius George, center, and Jannson Williams, right.
March 6, 2018

By Chuck McGill

The list of similarities between Marshall freshmen forwards Darius George and Jannson Williams is lengthy.

“We have the same body type, skill level and gameplay,” said Williams, a 6-foot-9, 205-pound redshirt from Newnan, Georgia.

“We both have athleticism, we both have bounce, we can shoot a little bit and we have a lot of energy coming off of the bench,” said George, who is 6-7 and 200 pounds.

Both players, too, elevated their play in the twilight of the Thundering Herd’s regular season, which provides MU men's basketball coach Dan D’Antoni with two more capable weapons as it prepares for Thursday’s Conference USA tournament quarterfinals. Marshall (21-10) is the fourth seed and receives a first round bye, awaiting the winner of the 5-12 matchup between UTSA (18-13) and UTEP (11-19).  

Williams exploded for his first career double-double – 13 points and 11 rebounds – in last Saturday’s road win against nationally ranked Middle Tennessee. George has put together the best three-game stretch of his true freshmen season, scoring 38 points in that span after 16 points in Marshall’s previous 16 games.



“We recruited them so we thought they had a lot of talent, but the last three or four games it looks like they’re growing out of that freshman territory to sophomores,” D’Antoni said.

Williams has played a pivotal role this season, seeing action in 30 of 31 games (with three starts). He is sixth on the team in minutes played per game (15.2). He averages 4.6 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.

George has played in 23 games – no starts – and had to deal with an injury setback at the outset of Conference USA play, and his stats are eerily similar to Williams: 4.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

In the last three games, however, George has made 15 of 19 shots (78.9 percent), 4 of 5 from 3-point range (80 percent) and averaged 12.7 points per game. He set a career high with 13 points against Charlotte on Feb. 24, and then bested that total five days later with 17 points at UAB.

“Most of it is their ability to focus in the game and catch everything within the system and be ready to play,” D’Antoni said. “Sometimes they are thinking too hard to do the system right, and they forget to play. But once you get the system right, you play freely and we are getting to see their true talent.”

It had been 13 games since Williams last scored more than 5 points in a single game, but he contributed in a big way against Middle Tennessee. Williams said he knew his team would need more out of him than usual, which will again be the case at the C-USA tournament in Frisco, Texas, this week.

“You have to have that mentality every game, but we’re freshmen and new to this,” Williams said. “We have to play like we did against Middle Tennessee, if not better.”

Williams said he has watched George “blossom” at the end of the regular season. George said it took a while for his confidence to return. He had missed 11 of his last 12 from 3-point range before this three-game stretch.

Meanwhile, Williams has seen his playing time incrementally increase. He has played at least 15 minutes in five consecutive games, and stayed on the floor for 30 minutes against MT.

“Where I am now is where I wish I was at the beginning of the season,” Williams said. “My confidence has skyrocketed.”

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the pair of freshmen are enjoying a simultaneous breakout. The similarities, it seems, are endless.

“We feed off each other and help each other,” George said. “Whenever we’re in the game together we’re the two bigs, so we have to sustain the other bigs. We have to crash the boards and bring the team energy.”