Sunday, November 07, 1999

Williams looks to recover old form


Senior tentative in practice after 20 months off

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Wednesday night's exhibition opener against B.C. Honved of Hungary can't come soon enough for Darnell Williams. He hasn't played a real game in 20 months.

        The fifth-year senior — actually a graduate student — who sat out last season with a knee injury, has had an up-and-down preseason.

        Williams leaves Schmidt Fieldhouse every night with his right knee packed in ice. One day he was kicked in his knee and another day he slipped on the court and turned it. A couple of times he has sat out at the end of practice.

        “It bothers me (when) I'm not out there,” Williams said. “I've just got to deal with it. I'm coping real well right now.”

        So far, Williams has not been the same as he was his junior year, when he led the Musketeers in scoring and was one of the top players in the Atlanic 10 Conference.

        “He hasn't played that way yet,” coach Skip Prosser said. “He's playing a little bit too cerebral. He needs to get back to playing with reckless abandon. It's easier for me to say that than maybe for him to get it done.”

        Williams' knee is 100 percent healed from its June 1998 surgery, athletic trainer David Fluker said. That's not the problem.

        “It's never going to be like the God-given knee,” Fluker said. “I think it's at the point of getting over that mental aspect of getting back to play. He needs to get in a game situation.”

        The knee is often sore. Daily ice treatment keeps the swelling down. This is probably what Williams is going to have to live with all season.

        But his conditioning, he said, is getting better. Ditto his rhythm on the court. He's not shooting the ball as well as he'd like, but he vows to work on that.

        “Not too much time left,” Williams said. “It's time to get rolling.

        “If we have to play tomorrow, I'm ready to go.”

        Ready, willing ... but able?

        “Sometimes it might seem like I'm pacing (myself), but I'm not,” Williams said. “Some times I'm holding back to try to get everyone else on the same page. I have confidence in myself, and hopefully my teammates have confidence in me. I've worked real hard to get back.

        “I have to be the same as two years ago. That's the only way I know how to play.”

        T.J. UPDATE: T.J. Johnson graduated in 1998 and waited a year and a half for a chance to play pro basketball. Last month, he signed a contract with a team in Poland.

        He said he spent roughly 13 hours on airplanes. He arrived at 3 p.m. Poland time. His team had a game at 6 p.m.

        “I knew I shouldn't have been playing, and they knew it, but they wanted me to go out there and do something,” Johnson said.

        Two minutes into the game, Johnson made a move, came down on one leg and felt a sharp pain shoot through his knee. He suffered a contusion and ended up returning to Cincinnati because doctors in Poland didn't have the means to treat him properly, Johnson said.

        “They gave me ointment, and it gave me a rash,” he said.

        Johnson, who was never seriously injured during his Xavier career, is back in town trying to find a new job or a new place to play.

        FIRST GAME: Tickets are on sale ($5 each) for this week's exhibition games: 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. Hungary and noon Saturday vs. Athletes in Action.

        X FILES: Maurice McAfee led all scorers with 17 points in Saturday's scrimmage, a dress rehearsal for Wednesday. Williams and Aaron Turner added 16 each. ... Former Musketeer Torraye Braggs planned to leave today for Quad City of the CBA. ... Derek Strong is on the Orlando Magic's injured list (Achilles tendon).

       



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- Williams looks to recover old form

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