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Baltimore native Kam Williams providing a spark for Buckeyes, getting ready to face No. 3 Maryland

Kevin Williams can look back on the progression of his son Kam's basketball career and see two common themes: patience and points.

Ever since the younger Williams started to emerge on the talent-rich Amateur Athletic Union scene in Baltimore, he seemed preternaturally mature about quietly waiting his turn before getting a chance to show what he has always done best — score.

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It also happened during his first two years at Mount Saint Joseph. After playing on the school's junior varsity as a freshman, and averaging around 30 points a game, Williams came off the varsity bench until late in his sophomore year. He wound up being a three-time first-team Baltimore Sun All-Metro selection.

"It was about 18 games into the season and the coach [Pat Clatchey] said, 'We need you to start — we need some scoring punch,'" the elder Williams recalled. "What's happening now [at Ohio State] is eerily similar to what happened in high school."

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After redshirting as a freshman — in part because of Williams coming down with mononucleosis right before the season was to begin — the 6-foot-2, 175-pound shooting guard played a limited role last season behind Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year D'Angelo Russell, senior Shannon Scott and junior Marc Loving.

Asked whether Williams has ever become frustrated with his role or playing time, Ohio State coach Thad Matta said, "I have not seen that with him. He doesn't have a selfish bone in his body."

"There were times when I've probably wanted him to do a little bit more [scoring], but I love the pace that he's playing with right now," Matta continued. "He's got a great comfort about what he's doing when he's in the game."

On a team in transition after Russell left for the NBA and Scott as well as Sam Thompson departed, Williams is providing a spark off the bench for the Buckeyes, who play No. 3 Maryland on Saturday in College Park. In five Big Ten games, Williams is averaging 11.4points in just over 23 minutes per game. He has shot 20-for-37 overall and 9-for-17 from beyond the arc in league play.

Williams sees the similarities between his high school career in Baltimore and his college career in Columbus. "In high school, I was a young player that wanted to play varsity his first year like everybody else, so I kept working," Williams said. "Hard work has been pretty good to me, so it would be uncharacteristic of me to regret any decision. I'm just going to keep working harder."

Asked whether he ever regretted not going to another school where he might have played sooner, Williams said: "Not at all. I knew coming in I would have to work for everything that I've got to this point. I think it's finally starting to pay off, so I have no complaints."

Kevin Williams said that from the earliest age, his only child played with a rather sizable chip on his shoulder. Father and son believe the chip has only grown bigger over the past two years, though the work ethic has been a constant.

"Kam is one of those kids who has to work hard in every phase for everything that he gets," the elder Williams said. "You don't have to motivate or push him. He will literally spend the night in the gym if he could."

Said Kam Williams: "I worked a lot harder than I had before, and I was a hard worker before, and it added to what I needed to do to work on my game in the offseason, just becoming a better all-around player."

Williams started to consistently get more minutes Dec. 19 against Kentucky, the Buckeyes' first game after four-star freshman Austin Grandstaff announced that he was transferring to Oklahoma because he wasn't getting as much playing time as he expected.

In the 74-67 victory over the then-No. 4 Wildcats, Williams had nine points in 28 minutes, including a pair of free throws with just under three minutes left after Kentucky cut a 16-point deficit to three.

Williams has scored in double figures in three of Ohio State's five Big Ten games, including 21 points in a win at Northwestern.

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While Williams has always been considered a scorer, dating to his high school and AAU years — he accumulated more than 2,000 points in his three varsity seasons at Mount Saint Joseph and he led the highly competitive Nike-sponsored EYBL in scoring during the 2012 summer season — what has made a difference this year in terms of playing time has been his improvement defensively.

"He's done a tremendous job of defending," Matta said on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference last week. "We've always known he could put the ball in the basket. We just wanted him to be more a complete player. He's a competitive kid, he's a great kid and he wants to give everything he has for this program."

Williams said he has never looked at himself as just a scorer.

"I want to do whatever the team needs me to do and what the coach needs," he said. "I want to be the one to provide it with a spark and with energy. For me, it's not just about putting the ball in the basket and putting up shots."

The low-key Williams is not getting too amped up about his first college game in his home state since becoming a Buckeye.

"It's just another game," he said. "Just follow the game plan, study their players, see what they do well. It's another opportunity. It's just another Big Ten road game and we'll have the same mindset that we did at Northwestern."

While it seems unlikely that Williams will jump into the starting lineup, ahead of either Loving or star freshman JaQuan Lyle, associate head coach and former Maryland player and assistant Dave Dickerson said, "I think that the one thing you're going to see in him is that the more minutes he plays, the more productive he's going to be."

In many ways, Dickerson sees Williams much in the way Maryland coaches saw Dickerson when he played in College Park — though with a little more natural talent on the offensive end.

"Kam is a really, really good kid," Dickerson said. "He's not one of these kids who acts like it's all about him. But he does have a killer streak in him, and I think we're seeing that this year."

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