While the Cowboys have gotten out to a strong start, it's easy for Ford to wonder just how good his squad might be with Williams, a sophomore and returning starter who was just starting to find his fit at the end of last season, when he averaged 9.6 points and was a full-fledged member of the Lob Stilly movement as a dynamic athlete.
“The best defender we've got,” Ford said. “He averaged 13 points a game over four games in Spain.
When you lose him and JP (Olukemi), that's 24 points we've lost. And our best defender.
“So it would be nice to get him back. It definitely would be.”
And for Williams, it would be nice to get back. During OSU's four-game preseason exhibition tour of Spain, Williams sensed something special developing in the Cowboys' transition offense. And he wants to experience that again soon, just in case Smart and Le'Bryan Nash make a jump to the NBA.
“Everybody was just starting to feel each other out,” he said. “Smart was starting to find me and Markel (Brown) on the break. I'm finding Markel, I'm finding Smart.
“Then when they broke me the news that I wouldn't be playing this season, I was crushed. I was just hoping some guys would stick around to play with me next season.”
Williams finds hope in the recoveries of teammate Philip Soucek, who is back better than ever after tearing his Achilles late last season, and of Cowgirls forward Toni Young, who suffered an injury similar to Williams.
“She's explained to me every step of the process,” Williams said, “from the pain she felt, to her arm being skinny when she got out of the cast to her wearing long sleeves in the summer because she was embarrassed by her arm. She talks to me a lot about it.
“Seeing her back healthy is inspirational.”