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July 2, 2013
Brenton Williams went from being one of the leaders to the leader.
All seniors are expected to carry the mantle of team leader, as something they earn throughout their previous years on their teams. Some come in as freshmen and lead right away, some transfer in as seniors and do the same, some learn as they go.
Quiet and unassuming, Williams isn't a very vocal presence, but knew that his 2013-14 senior season at South Carolina would be one where he would be looked on as a team leader. That's when he would be joining Bruce Ellington, Eric Smith, Brian Richardson, Damontre Harris and R.J. Slawson on a senior-laden team. He would be looked at as a leader, but also as part of a group of leaders.
Instead, it's Williams, with Ellington contributing for the final 75 percent or so of the season. While Ellington will be around the basketball program as he plays his junior season of football, he won't be playing in the games and be able to talk to a youth-dominated team the way that an everyday player can.
That role falls on Williams. Harris transferred to Florida before last season and Smith, Richardson and Slawson all transferred after last season. Suddenly, there were only two seniors on the roster, and Williams is the only one who would be around all the time.
The season doesn't begin until November, but Williams isn't waiting to lead.
"I don't ever want to look back and regret anything," Williams said on Sunday after his game at the S.C. Pro Am. "I'm the only senior and I'm getting ready to impart leadership. I'm getting ready for that role."
That includes keeping in touch with the new guys throughout the summer, making sure everybody knows when the workouts and conditioning runs are, sometimes offering a ride or advice for freshmen that may be overwhelmed with the sudden transition to college. A Pro Am teammate with one freshman, Demetrius Henry, Williams likes the progress shown by the group during the first summer session.
"We're trying to get the new guys acclimated to our system, the running, the conditioning, certain drills we do," he said. "We're getting them up to par.
"They're impressing me. They're making progress, little by little. I enjoy watching the new freshmen and watching them play."
As for leadership, Williams knows he's being thrust into the role, but is ready for it. It helps that he's done it before.
"It's not really a big surprise," he said. "I know college level's a different story, but in high school, I was the only senior. That's how I approach it. I'm the only senior left on that team, until Bruce comes back."
Williams' on-the-floor role will be as one of the Gamecocks' plethora of guards, a proven scorer who can be given the green light or can handle directing the offense. USC sorely needed somebody, anybody, to consistently put the ball in the hole last year, and Williams began doing that at the end of the season. With one of the freshmen - Jaylen Shaw, Duane Notice or Sindarius Thornwell - expected to share time at point guard until Ellington and Ty Johnson are cleared, Williams can be a floor mentor.
He can also run the point, but realizes that one of his greatest gifts - speed - may have to be downsized a bit. Throughout his career, Williams has often been caught in the trap of trying to out-run the defense instead of out-working it, and ran himself into turnovers. That can't happen with such a young team next year.
"I do rely on my speed quite a lot," Williams said. "I just have to adjust and if I play the one, I might have to slow down just a little bit and run the offense. The coaches haven't discussed the positions with us yet. We'll figure that out once the season gets closer."
The leadership question is already figured out. Williams said he's ready for anything that he's thrown, but the willingness of the freshman class to learn has been impressive.
"These guys, they know how to play," Williams said. "Even though they're new to the college level, practice will get them used to it and more comfortable."