“I think we used that as motivation a lot this preseason, just emphasizing getting back to playing our game,” Williams said at ACC men’s basketball media day on Oct. 24. “I know for the older guys that know what it’s like, that have been there and won that championship, we don’t want to go out like that two years in a row.”
Last year, Williams averaged 11.4 points to go with 2.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds — all career highs. But as a senior, Williams uses the shortcomings of the 2017-18 season to fuel him.
The day before No. 8 UNC opened its season on the road against Wofford, Williams watched film of the Tar Heels’ 2017 home loss to the Terriers with his team. He was furious when he saw Wofford guard Fletcher Magee score on him multiple times on his way to a 27-point outburst.
This time, Williams went into the matchup with a chip on his shoulder, and it showed. Williams held Magee to 7-of-23 from the field and 3-of-16 from the 3-point line in North Carolina’s 78-67 win.
“I got pissed,” Williams said of the film session. “He’s a great player. He’s a great shooter. But I took it personally if he scored, at all. I knew he would get his shots and make some, but I wanted to hold him to zero as long as I could.”
Williams couldn’t put the ball in the basket during the game against the Terriers this year. He missed all three of his shot attempts and had zero points in 29 minutes. Even with six rebounds and five assists, his tenacity was demonstrated by more than the stat sheet.
Head coach Roy Williams called his performance the story of the game.
“I don’t know if Kenny won the defensive player of the game, but I know he worked harder defensively than anybody,” Roy Williams said after the win.
Kenny Williams also didn’t make a field goal in the Tar Heels’ 116-67 win at Elon on Friday. UNC scored the most points ever in the Roy Williams era, but Kenny Williams couldn’t find a rhythm. He didn’t hit any of his seven shot attempts and went 0-for-5 from the 3-point line.
Even with his offensive woes, Kenny Williams isn’t worried. He knows he has the ability to affect games in what he believes are more important facets.
“To still be able to impact the game in a big way without scoring the ball, it just shows how much more valuable that I can be,” Kenny Williams said after the game against Wofford. “Not to toot my own horn or anything, but that’s just me finding a way to impact the game other than scoring.”
With the departure of Berry and Pinson, many around the North Carolina program say Kenny Williams has been the alpha dog of the team.
The 6-foot-4 mild-mannered guard isn’t the most expressive, but he hopes to lead by the example he sets on the court, especially on the defensive end.
“You have nights where shots won’t go in,” Kenny Williams said. “It seems like there’s a lid on the basket. But, if you clamp down on the defensive end and keep them from scoring, eventually your shots are going to fall."
Kenny Williams learned a lot the last three years from Berry and Pinson. He learned how to be a leader. He learned how to represent his University.
But most importantly, when he was sidelined for the final 14 games of his sophomore season, he learned how to achieve redemption, just as Berry and Pinson did when North Carolina won the National Championship in 2017.
And that’s why he refuses to forget what happened eight months ago against the Aggies.
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