“I just want to thank everybody around the community and at UMass, from the coaches to the fans for allowing me to do the things I do,” Williams said. “Coach Kellogg was nice enough to allow me to have the opportunity to get feedback from NBA scouts. It was a tough process. I was thinking about taking care of my family, especially my daughter.
“I love this program and coach Kellogg, and I love all the guys on the team. The pieces we have coming back next season was a big reason I decided to stay in school. We are trying our hardest to have the arena filled each and every game and the student support we have makes college basketball so exciting.”
The 6-2 former Hofstra transfer averaged a team-leading 15.5 points and 7.3 assists per game last season, garnering first team All-Atlantic 10 Conference honors. In his two-year career, he has averaged 16.2 per game.
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Williams waited until the last possible minute to announce he was coming back, despite the fact that there was little-to-no buzz surrounding him in terms of his NBA Draft prospects. This seems like the best decision for him.
With Williams returning, coach Derrick Kellogg will have one of the better backcourts in the conference with Williams and Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon, who becomes eligible after sitting out last year. Gordon led the Hilltoppers in scoring as a freshman during the 2011-12 season at 11.8 per game and also pulled down 6.7 rebounds per game. They also get West Virginia transfer Jabarie Hinds in 2014-15, when Williams graduates.
It will also ease the loss of 6-5 Jesse Morgan, who was second behind Williams at 13.4 points per game this season.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.