Return of Williams boosts Texas A&M after tough season
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Coming off a tough season, the Texas A&M Aggies got a huge boost when projected NBA lottery pick Robert Williams chose to skip the draft to return to the team.
A year after reaching the NCAA regional semifinals for the first time since 2007, the Aggies didn't even get an invitation to the NIT after going 16-15. A bright spot of that difficult campaign was the emergence of Williams, a 6-foot-10 forward with a knack for blocking shots.
Williams averaged 11.9 points and 8.2 rebounds a game as a freshman. The 6-foot-10 player led the SEC with 46 blocked shots during league play and was second in rebounds a game with 9.6 during conference play. He blocked at least one shot in every game last season and had 22 games with multiple blocks. He was projected to be drafted as high as No. 10, but instead decided play another season to improve his draft status and help the Aggies get back to the tournament.
Williams loves the camaraderie of the team and is looking to help the Aggies make a big leap this season.
''We stick together the most out of anything,'' he said. ''We've got to pull each other up. Even when someone's not feeling good or feeling down ... we've just got to pull them through.''
The Aggies have made the NCAA Tournament just once since coach Billy Kennedy took over for the 2011-12 season, but believe they have a good chance of returning this season.
''This is my seventh year at Texas A&M. We want to take the next step,'' Kennedy said. ''We thought we did with the Sweet 16 team and hit a little bump last year. We've got really good talent and we've had some good recruiting classes. We expect some great things.''
Some things to know about the 2017-18 Texas A&M basketball team:
The Aggies will open the season on Nov. 10 against West Virginia in the Armed Forces Classic at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
''What a great opportunity for us to go over in front of our armed forces and play a game against a ... team like West Virginia to kick off the season,'' Kennedy said. ''It's going to be a challenging trip.''
Texas A&M returns four starters from last year's team, including center Tyler Davis, a junior who has become a leader for the team. He led the SEC and ranked 14th in the nation by making 62.9 percent of his field goals last season. The 6-foot-10 Davis averaged 14.1 points and seven rebounds a game last year. He believes they learned a valuable lesson last season on what happens when the players don't do things the right way.
''With this team we have so much talent that it really just depends ... on the work we put in and how disciplined we can be,'' he said. ''Last year we got a big taste of what undisciplined is all across the board. This year we have all the pieces, so are we going to be mentally ready and are we going to trust in what coach tells us every day.''
DELAYED DEBUT: Guard J.J. Caldwell, who redshirted last season after he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, won't begin the season with the team after he was suspended for the first five games for violating school policy. The school did not elaborate on the reason for his suspension, but Brazos County court records indicate that he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated in May. That case was dismissed Sept. 20.
Caldwell will be able to practice during his suspension and will be eligible to return on Nov. 24 against Pepperdine.
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