Williams Named Semifinalist For Naismith Defensive Player of the Year

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- The Atlanta Tipoff Club named Tennessee junior Grant Williams a semifinalist for the 2019 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award.

"Defense makes up a huge part of every win in college basketball, and we're excited to recognize those who defend the hardwood," Atlanta Tipoff Club Executive Director Eric Oberman said. "These players represent on-court toughness and a defensive tenacity that make them worthy of consideration for this award."

The reigning SEC Player of the Year, Williams leads the fifth-ranked Volunteers in rebounding (7.6 rpg), steals (30) and charges drawn (7) while ranking second in blocks (39). He is the only player on the team with at least 20 blocks and 20 steals this season.

Tennessee (24-2, 12-1 SEC) is ranked 15th in the country and tops the SEC in field-goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 39 percent from the floor. The Big Orange's stout defense has held opponents to fewer than 60 points on six occasions.

Williams' 144 career blocks is the fifth most in program history. The junior forward only needs nine more blocks to rank among the program's all-time top three. Teammate Kyle Alexander recently moved into sole possession of second place (168 blocks) on the list. The rim-protecting duo is a big reason the Volunteers rank fourth in the country in blocks per game (5.6 bpg).

This season, Williams has logged multiple blocks in 13 games and multiple steals in 10. He has recorded four performances with multiple blocks and steals in the game, including three blocks and two steals to go along with 22 points and 10 rebounds against Wake Forest.

Williams has received other recent accolades, garnering Midseason All-American recognition from Sporting News and Sports Illustrated. He was named to the John R. Wooden Award Player of the Year late season watch list, the Naismith Trophy Men's Player of the Year Award Midseason Team, the Oscar Robertson Trophy Final Midseason Watch List and a finalist for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.

For the season, the Charlotte, N.C., native is averaging an SEC-best 19.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game, while shooting 58 percent from the field and 83 percent from the free-throw line.

Ashton Hagans from Kentucky joins Williams as the only players from the SEC named to the 10-player list.