LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Troy Williams is not the second coming of Victor Oladipo. Understand that. Indiana's incoming freshman guard has to show he has the will, the work ethic, and the defense that turned Oladipo from a lightly regarded recruit to a potential NBA lottery pick.
Sure, Williams has similar size and athleticism. He is 6-6 and 180 pounds. He is swift and athletic and aggressive.
All of that, and more, were displayed in Friday night's Derby Classic game at Freedom Hall. Williams earned team MVP honors with his game-high 21 points, plus five rebounds and four assists in 18 minutes. He had big-time dunks (he finished second in the dunk contest) and went 2-for-2 from three-point range. He led his Black team to a 124-113 victory in the 40th edition of this all-star event that annually brings in some of the nation's top players.
“I was trying to make big-impact plays, rebound, push the ball,” he said. “Get the ball to my teammates. Being the MVP on the 40th anniversary is nice. It's good to go down in history in this kind of event. It's a great feeling.”
Fellow IU recruit Stanford Robinson was impressed.
“Troy is an active player,” Robinson said. “He does a lot. He likes to contribute anyway he can. He got points off of rebounds, off of fast breaks. He even played point guard a little bit.”
Williams has heard the Oladipo comparisons. How could he not? IU fans are everywhere and the Hoosiers' return to national relevance (two straight Sweet 16 appearances) keeps the Cream 'n Crimson buzz going.
“A lot of people tell me I'm like him," Williams said. "I just try to make big plays on defense and offense. I don't worry about it too much. I just try to play my game and have fun.”
Fun brings showmanship (his dry ice and laser introduction included wearing a pair of red and white striped sunglasses with IU logos on the lenses) that IU coach Tom Crean will allow if Williams keeps it controlled. In other words, if you go for a 360 dunk, make it.
Bet the house Williams will take a shot.
“Big-impact plays always come,” he said. “If I see an open lane, I will try to take it. I don't like to lay the ball in. I like to go for the dunk. That comes with highlight plays. Just make sure the ball goes in.”
Like Oladipo, Williams is from the east. He played for powerhouse Oak Hill Academy out of Virginia. He's rated as the nation's No. 10 small forward, the No. 47 player overall.
But don't limit Williams to small forward, especially in Crean's system that pushes versatility. Williams could play anywhere from point guard (occasionally) to power forward (once he gets bigger and stronger).
“I can play the 2 (shooting guard). I can play inside like the 4. I can play outside if I have to. I'll bring the ball up some to make big-impact plays.”
Williams is set to arrive in Bloomington in June. He said he understands he's far from a finished product.
“I'm working on getting stronger, working on my footwork more, shooting, of course, and ball handling. I feel comfortable handling the ball, but you can't ever be satisfied. You can always get better. I want to get better.”
That includes defense. Oladipo, after all, was the Big Ten's defensive player of the year. With his departure to the NBA, somebody has to try to assume that role.
“My defense can get better, like help side on blocking shots,” Williams said. “I can excel at that. I want to work on my on-ball defense a lot.”
Williams was one of five IU-bound recruits to play Friday night. Forward Devin Davis had 14 points and eight rebounds. Center Luke Fischer had 12 points and six rebounds, plus two blocks and three steals. Robinson had six points, four rebounds and four assists. Swingman Collin Hartman had seven points, four rebounds and two steals.
“This was a chance to get to know them better, and get them to know my personality, too," Williams said. "It was a lot of fun.
“I saw some athleticism out of Devin. He can play outside and inside, which will really help. I like his game.
“Collin is a great shooter. Luke reminds me a lot of Cody Zeller. We were joking with him that he looks like him. He can run the floor real well. Me and Stan played together at the NBA camp, the LeBron James camp. I know his game.”
This group, along with forward Noah Vonleh, must make instant impact if the Hoosiers are to sustain the success from the previous two years.
Williams sounds as if he has no doubt that will happen.
"It will be a lot of fun at Indiana," he said.