Illini freshman Williams draws rave reviews from Underwood

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Peoria native Da'Monte Williams has carved out a significant role with the Illini as a freshman, playing 17.8 minutes per game. Peoria native Da'Monte Williams has carved out a significant role with the Illini as a freshman, playing 17.8 minutes per game.

CHAMPAIGN -- Illini coach Brad Underwood is not one to mince words, nor is he one to give empty praise.

So when he says things like "Da'Monte Williams is one of the best listeners for a freshman that I've been around in a long time," you know the guard is in rare air.

The first-year from Peoria has proved doubters wrong by earning 17.8 minutes per game to go with the rave review from Underwood (full transcript below). Some said his knee injury would make him less explosive. Some that his blue-chip recruiting ranking early in high school was undeserved.

But on Friday night against Northwestern, it was Williams making impact defensive plays, picking all-league point guard Bryant McIntosh's pocket on at least two occasions and providing Illinois with the kind of momentum swings that can't be quantified.

After the game he got the following glowing review from Underwood, which shows that Williams' 17.8 minutes and 4.8 points per game are just a sliver of the value he provides the youthful Illini program.

"He's got incredible hands, he's got incredible length," Underwood said, "and the most important thing about Da'Monte: (he) does very little wrong. He's got incredible instincts. I liken it to the 'it' factor. I don't know what 'it' is, but he has 'it'. It's the stuff that you don't have to coach. I think every player has to earn his coach's trust. I have a lot of trust in Da'Monte, because he does so many things right at both ends of the court. He's going to make some freshman mistakes ... that is one dialed in... Da'Monte Williams is one of the best listeners for a freshman that I've been around in a long time. He's an exceptional listener. He learns."

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