Freshmen on the rise

Kane Williams, point guard for the Georgia State Panthers, attempts to score against the Arlington Mavericks. Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

Head coach Ron Hunter makes it his duty to recruit freshman basketball players in the state of Georgia and has had much success in doing so. In fact, the Georgia State men’s basketball team has two bright freshmen in power forward Josh Linder and point guard Kane Williams. While both players are still learning how to play at the collegiate level, they both bring different attributes to the Panthers team that has legitimate shots at winning a Sun Belt Conference championship.

Patience is a virtue with Linder

Linder, who is 6 feet 9 inches tall and 215 pounds, has played in 14 games with an average of seven minutes, thus far. While he’s not expected to make considerable contributions to this year’s team because Hunter has options in big men Jordan Session and Jordan Tyson, Linder has taken every opportunity he has been given to learn how to become a better player.

“I’ve learned that I just [have to] be more aggressive out there on the court, and just work to get more playing time,” Linder said.

Playing the forward and center positions in college is much different than in high school, especially for a freshman that is accustomed to having a noticeable size differential than other players. Nonetheless, Linder realizes that there are specific challenges he will face now that he is playing in college.

“Of course people are a lot stronger and pretty much just a lot quicker, but I’m getting right,” Linder said. “I’ve been working out a lot and getting stronger, so my time is coming.”

Linder has a point: Coach Hunter will look to him in the future to be able to step in and produce essential minutes for this team when needed. Linder has much promise given his athletic abilities, and he is only a freshman.

“I think I bring rebounding, getting blocked shots, good presence on defense and being a good defender,” Linder said as to what he feels he can bring to this team.

As a freshman, it’s not guaranteed that one will have a healthy relationship with their coach. Usually, young players who excelled in high school have a difficult time adjusting to not playing as many minutes in college. For Linder, however, having the opportunity to play for Hunter has been a joy.

“Me and Ron are really cool,” Linder said. “He just tells me to keep going at it every day in practice…and he tells me I’m [going to] be a good player.”

Linder didn’t play in Georgia State’s most anticipated game of the season against Georgia Southern, but that didn’t prevent him from feeling the effects of how electrifying the Georgia State Sports Arena becomes when the Eagles fly into Atlanta from Statesboro.

“The atmosphere is crazy, I love it, man. It’s unbelievable out there, man.”

Kane Williams is the point guard of the future

As for Williams, he seems to have fit into Hunter’s system quite well, being that he has played in all 20 games and even cracked the starting lineup twice. For him the experience has been incredible.

“It’s been lots of fun, and I love the guys I’m on this journey with,” said Williams.

Both Linder and Williams have experienced challenges during their first year, but for Williams, being consistent and continuously progressing is what he is focused on.

“A big difference is adjusting to your role, playing your part and accepting criticism,” he said. “Each day I work on that and hope to continue to get better.”

Thus far, Williams has been doing well enough to earn the trust of Hunter, which isn’t an easy task as a freshman. Not only has he started two games, but Williams has also been inserted into the game during crucial moments this season.

So how has he developed such a trust factor with Hunter?

“I’ve just tried to limit my mistakes and play defense,” Williams said. “Those are the biggest things he wants me to work on, and I have continued to improve on that since June. Hopefully, that leads to him trusting me more on and off the court.”

As for on the court, Williams possesses characteristics that many freshman point guards don’t tend to have. When he gets the opportunity to run the offense, he does so with confidence and the team doesn’t really miss a beat.

“It would have to be my energy off the bench,” Williams said as to what he feels he provides for this team.

One would also say Williams is an aggressive scorer. He admitted that his jump shot isn’t the greatest, but he finds a way to score at the rim, which is crucial at the college level.

However, learning when to shoot or create a play for your teammates to score is also a pivotal part of being a point guard in college.

When asked what his current weakness is, Williams said “Becoming a threat on the offensive end.”

“I need to keep working on my shot selection and take shots at the right times.”

If Williams can turn his weaknesses into strengths, he will set himself up to potentially be the starting point guard of the future for the Panthers.

Interesting facts about Josh Linder:

  • He was born in Japan
  • He went to Veterans High School in Kathleen, Ga.
  • Was ranked as high as No. 45 in the country by, the No. 14 forward in the country and No. 3 in the state of Georgia.
  • He is currently majoring in pre-business

Interesting facts about Kane Williams:

  • He was born in Miami, FL.
  • He is from Douglasville, GA.
  • He went to South Paulding High School
  • In high school he was a two-time Paulding County Player of the Year
  • His father ran track & field at Oklahoma University
  • He is currently majoring in pre-business