With seven consecutive games scoring 20-plus points, University of Toledo senior guard Jonathan Williams is in the midst of the best stretch of basketball of his college career.
The 6-foot-3 guard from Southfield, Mich., consistently is producing for a team that has now won four consecutive games and is coming off a 32-point victory Wednesday against defending Mid-American Conference champion Buffalo in its conference opener.
“This year, he is playing at an unbelievably high level at both ends of the floor,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “He is letting the game come to him. His shooting percentages are tremendous because he is taking good shots. The last six games, he is not turning the ball over. I’ve been extremely happy with him.”
Williams’ torrid stretch of scoring has pushed his points per game average to 20.3 this season, good for second in the MAC. During that seven-game stretch, Williams is averaging 24.4 points per game, shooting 51.8 percent from the field and 43.5 percent on 3-pointers.
“My teammates are doing a good job of getting me the ball in my sweet spots where I score the ball the most — in transition or within the offense,” Williams said. “Coach K is designing some great plays to get me open shots and I’ve just been letting the game come to me really.”
Williams’ scoring ability is not a secret to opposing teams, which often plan their defense around slowing him down. Yet, Williams has still carried the offensive load for the team this season and especially the past seven games, during which the Rockets are 5-2.
“He’s playing at a really high level right now,” UT senior Jordan Lauf said. “He’s taking really good shots for us. He’s doing what he does well. That’s kind of what we live by is excel and try to be great at what you do well for the team. What he does for the team is very valuable and very important.”
Kowalczyk said he is impressed with the consistency Williams has shown this season.
“He’s been consistent because he is taking good shots and is letting the game come to him a little bit better,” Kowlaczyk said. “He’s getting to the foul line. Fundamentally, he is shooting the ball extremely well. That’s important for our program.”
Williams came to Toledo from Southfield-Lathrup High School, where he graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,785 career points.
As a freshman at UT, Williams played on a Rockets’ team that was 27-7 overall and 14-4 in the MAC. That team boasted some of the program’s best talent in recent history. With guards Julius Brown and Justin Drummond, small forward Rian Pearson, and forwards J.D. Weatherspoon and Nathan Boothe in the starting lineup, Williams was the team’s top scorer off the bench at 6.7 points per game.
As he looks back on his early years in the program and tries to leave his mark this season, Williams said he draws on different characteristics of each of those players from his freshman season.
From Brown, he said he learned poise, from Drummond he learned leadership, from Pearson he learned toughness, from Weatherspoon he learned how to use athleticism, and from Boothe he learned how to stay the course.
“As I try to lead the team right now as a senior, I'm just trying to put all those pieces together that I learned from all those other good guys,” Williams said.
Now the torch has been passed to Williams, who continues to impress with his leadership and maturity.
“I think he’s played with some really good guys who played in the limelight,” Kowalczyk said. “And now he’s in that limelight and I think it has helped him. But he’s doing what he is supposed to do. Seniors are supposed to step up and play their best basketball and that is what he is doing.”
Toledo has not won a conference title and played in the NCAA tournament since 1980. In Williams’ freshman season, the Rockets fell just short when they lost in the MAC tournament championship game to Western Michigan.
As a senior, Williams thinks he can carry this team to a conference title and knows he will have to continue his role as the go-to scorer.
“I like that challenge,” Williams said. “It’s really not too much pressure for me. When adversity does hit, I’m willing to accept all challenges and put the team on my back.”
Kowalczyk and Lauf say Williams has matured on and off the court during his time. For Williams, in his last go-around for the Rockets, it is all about the success of the team.
“That’s why my sense of urgency is so high right now,” Williams said. “I want to go out a winner. People obviously know that I can score the ball. Scoring can only go so far, but people always remember who won.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6110.
Toledo's Jonathan Williams is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 20.3 points per game, which is good enough for second in the Mid-American Conference. BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH