College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning until practice tips off.

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Da'Monte Williams

Da’Monte Williams’ top scoring performance in Italy came in Illinois men’s basketball opener against CUS Insubria. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior guard scored four points. Then two, two and three in the Illini’s final three games during their 10-day foreign tour.

Illinois coach Brad Underwood really doesn’t care that the Peoria native and Illinois legacy didn’t light up the scoreboard in those all hot, some tiny, Italian gyms. Truly.

“I think we all put way, way too much emphasis on how many points you score,” the third-year Illini coach said. “Not everybody is that guy. He works extremely hard at it, and he’s very capable. I would just as soon have the eight assists that he had in one game and the steals and the plays that he makes defensively. His value is probably as high as anybody who scores 20 a game in terms of his meaning on the court with his IQ and feel.”

Williams averaged 2.5 points during Illinois’ trip to Italy. But he also put up 6.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists and three steals per game as the Illini finished their tour 3-1. It mostly mirrors his statistical production in his first two seasons playing for Underwood, where he’s averaged 3.5 points and 3.2 rebounds.

But Williams made 18 starts last season and played more minutes — up to 21.5 per game after playing 16.9 mpg as a true freshman — for a clear reason. He has Underwood’s trust.

“He makes very, very few mistakes,” Underwood said. “As a coach, it’s very comforting to know who you trust. My trust level with Da’Monte is extremely high. He’s an unbelievable extra pass guy because he sees it and the ball never sticks in his hands.”

Still, Underwood would like to see Williams be more aggressive offensively.

“We need to get him to the foul line 6-8 times a game,” he said. “He’s improved in that area a bunch.”

Episode 62: Is recruiting older, proven players the Illini way to go?

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