It’s been almost seven months since the last time he stepped on a court for an official game, an 86-65 loss to Texas A&M, and he emphasized his excitement in getting the 2018-2019 campaign underway at UNC men’s basketball media day on Tuesday.
“I’m just excited about everybody because I’ve seen all summer the kind of work everybody is putting in,” Williams said. “The amount of hours that we’ve been in the gym together.”
Two players that were not in the gym putting in that work this summer were Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson, two seniors on last year’s team. Head coach Roy Williams noted as much during his press conference on Tuesday.
“No question I liked having Joel and Theo out there,” Roy Williams said. “The experience they had, the toughness that Joel had and the way Theo put every moment and made it fun. But that team is gone, so I don’t sit back.”
In their absence, Kenny Williams has done his best to fill that void ahead of the new season.
“On the court, I’ve tried to be more of a vocal leader,” he said. “When guys need help or just needed some guidance, I’ve tried to be there for them.”
Williams is one of three veterans who will be asked to fill that void, along with Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye. Not only have the three bonded on the court, they are also great friends, and roommates. Their head coach referred to them affectionately as "the three stooges" on Tuesday afternoon.
“All three of those guys really are good leaders, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to make Seventh do something or Coby do something,” the head coach said. “They can emphasize to them what’s important and use their experience and tell them the experiences that they’ve had, but at the end of the day everybody’s gotta make their own decisions.”
“Just making sure everybody is taken care of,” Johnson said in regards to his leading style. “Making sure morale is in a good spot. Making sure guys aren’t getting frustrated by anything or keeping level heads. Giving them as much advice as I can offer, as much as five years of college basketball can give me, and I try and share it with them."
Yet Kenny Williams was the focus of the team’s media day following a breakout junior campaign. After starting in 22 of 26 games as a sophomore, Williams inherited the starting shooting guard role last season and thrived. He averaged career-highs in points (11.4), assists (2.4), rebounds (3.7) and minutes played (31.1) per game.
And now, his coach believes he is primed for an even better year, both as a leader and a basketball player.
“He’s been one of the really good leaders so far in the preseason and he’s our best perimeter defender,” Roy Williams said. “I think he’s even better this year than he was last year. He sets an example for the other guys.”
Fans will not have to wait much longer to see this year’s iteration of UNC basketball take the court on Nov. 6 against Wofford in the regular season opener.
But this time, it will be Kenny Williams, Johnson and Maye leading the team into battle. And Kenny cannot wait.
“I’m just ready to go out there and go to war with my brothers, with my teammates,” Williams said. “Instead of going against them every day.”