Detroit's Trevion Williams drops weight, rises as key player for Purdue

By Matt Schoch
Special to The Detroit News
Trevion Williams

Trevion Williams pushed himself away from the table this year with hopes of eating come March.

With college basketball’s main course now upon the Purdue freshman, he’s ready to show off the fruits of his labor.

“With my confidence on the court, I just feel 10 times better,” said Williams, who has lost nearly 50 pounds since graduating last year from Detroit Henry Ford Academy. “Going through that process, losing all that weight, learning plays and stuff like that right away -- being able to come in and being able to produce right away, I think, shows a lot about me.”

Williams, who will open Big Ten tournament play on Friday at about 265 pounds and averaging 10 bench minutes a game for the co-conference champions, also has more to show.

Mike Faletti, who coached Williams in AAU with the Michigan Mustangs and later with The Family, said the 6-foot-8 Williams has several dimensions to his game that he could show over time in West Lafayette.

“I think that’s the one thing people have not seen yet is the ball-handling,” Faletti said. “People have gotten the glimpses of rebounding and passing, but he was always was a good ball handler for us as well.”

More: Big Ten men's basketball tournament schedule

Williams said that will come with time and more positive days like he’s enjoyed since arriving on campus last summer, shedding a pound or two a week consistently. After enrolling at Purdue last summer at well over 300 pounds, Williams said he’d like to get down to 245 next season.

Coach Matt Painter could have a need for more playmaking down the road, as the primary playmaking guards are senior Ryan Cline and junior Carsen Edwards, who could be NBA-bound after this season. Although Williams earned eight starts at center for No. 13 Purdue this season, 7-foot-3 sophomore Matt Haarms appears entrenched in the post.

“Almost my whole life, I always had a little bit of skill because I never really was able to show it because of the weight problem,” Williams said. “I always worked on more than just big man stuff, and trying not to be one-dimensional, trying to be versatile. That’s something I always work on with workouts and stuff like that, being able to do more on the court.”

Trevion Williams: "I always worked on more than just big man stuff, and trying not to be one-dimensional, trying to be versatile."

For now, Williams is a crafty bench big man for Painter, but an effective one at that, scoring 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Williams starred as Purdue made their early-season climb up the Big Ten standings, scoring 10.8 points and grabbing 7.3 rebounds during an eight-game stretch that started at Michigan State.

Ironically, Williams said he almost played for Tom Izzo’s Spartans, noting the irony in now sharing the Big Ten title with his would-be teammates.

“It’s actually really crazy,” Williams said. “I’m surprised at the whole process of how everything worked out, just sharing the championship.

"Even playing at (Breslin Center) was tough because a lot of the fans already knew me since high school, since my visit. Some of them were talking trash, but I still got respect for them.”

Williams said the family atmosphere with Painter and Purdue pushed him back closer to home, as he grew up in Chicago.

The murder of Williams’ uncle, a beloved postal worker and a central figure in his youth, pushed Williams to Michigan halfway through high school. Then, Williams looked to Henry Ford Academy, where his uncle Curtis Lewis was principal, and to Detroit, to escape the violence of Chicago.

“I appreciate (the people of Detroit) a lot and all the people that watched me grow as a player and as a young man,” Williams said. “Everybody that’s been watching me in Detroit, I appreciate them for believing in me and watching me grow.”

Williams and second-seeded Purdue play in Friday’s 7 p.m. quarterfinal against the winner of Thursday’s Penn State-Minnesota game.

Minnesota, seeded seventh, prevented the Boilermakers (23-8) from an outright regular season title with a 73-69 upset last week.

Purdue recovered with a 70-57 win at Northwestern on Saturday to earn a share of the program’s 24th Big Ten title, the most for any team, leading Indiana (22), Ohio State (20) and Wisconsin (18).

It’s a different situation than Williams had at Henry Ford Academy, an art and design charter school affiliated with the School For Creative Studies short on sports history and tradition.

Williams led Henry Ford Academy to a Class B district title and hopes for more March success on a bigger stage this year.

“It’s all just new for me and I’m taking it all in,” Williams said. “Personally I’m just trying to take things one step at a time.

“It’s been working out for me well.”

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.