Williams’ mid-range shot a lost art in today’s game

Senior forward Nino Williams nails a jumper in the second half of the Wildcats' 63-53 defeat of the Cowboys January 24, 2015, in Bramlage Coliseum. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

While his teammates part ways at the 3-point line and near the rim for potential put-back dunks, Nino Williams bunkers down 10- to 15-feet away from the basket.

Catch and shoot, catch and shoot. Rinse and repeat.

The shot is unconventional in today’s college basketball landscape. Offenses have adapted the NBA method of draining the shot clock by holding the ball near half court, perhaps swinging it a time or two. If a pull-up jumper isn’t available with seconds to go, pounding it down low is the way to go.

But at 6-foot-5, Williams is undersized. He understands that and his opponents do as well. That’s why, for hours upon end, the K-State senior forward spends his time in the gym parked in between the paint and the 3-point-line repeating the same shot.

“It’s that mid-range game,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said Saturday. “Sometimes it’s simple basketball: take what they give you. If they aren’t going to stop it, just keep doing it. That mid-range shot, he’s got it down. Any mid-range basketball is not part of today’s basketball world.”

Saturday against Oklahoma State, Williams started 8-8 from the field. All but two came from 10- to 15-feet. Williams finished the game with his second 20-point effort in as many games and, on Monday, the honor of Co-Big 12 Player of the Week.

“He’s got that 10- to 15-foot jumper down,” Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said. “They do a good job putting him that position. He understands his strengths and he gets it off quick. It’s a dangerous weapon.”

Williams has seen the benefit of practice time and a full complement of offensive weapons this season. The senior forward puts up shots for 20 or 30 minutes before practices and then spends time after working on his form.

With Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson garnering most of the attention from opposing defenses, Williams has been able to see that practice time come to fruition on the court in Big 12 play.

“I’m a little older now,” Williams said. “I understand ways of scoring and the spot where I’m going to score in. Playing with Marcus (Foster) and Thomas (Gipson), they usually key in on one or the other so I just get the open looks sometime. They find me most of the time.”

And most of the time, Williams hits the shot. The St. Louis, Missouri native is averaging 12 points per game this season, including 20 a game over the last three games. He has been the key figure in K-State’s turnaround from a 7-6 nonconference season, and will be a fixture in K-State’s potential run at a NCAA Tournament berth.

Slowly but surely, Williams is also looking like an All-Big 12 candidate.

“The way he (Williams) is playing right now is as good as anybody,” Ford said. “You base it on the last three or four games, you just look at the numbers and they speak for itself. He’s leading his team to some wins — that’s always important.”

Tuesday, K-State (12-8, 5-2) will welcome No. 17 West Virginia (16-3, 4-2) into Bramlage Coliseum with the second spot in the conference standings up for grabs.

Marcus Foster and West Virginia’s Juwan Staten will be the talking points prior to tipoff, but it’s Nino Williams’ mid-range game that will likely make all the difference. The unconventional, forgotten shot in the college basketball that Williams thrives upon.

“I’m pretty confident in it,” he said.