According to a press release from Duke University, Elliot Williams, who just finished his freshman season with the Devils, will be leaving the school to transfer closer to his Memphis, Tennessee, home due to "family medical reasons".
Williams will appeal the NCAA's transfer rule that would force him to sit out the 2009-10 season.
This is a big blow to Duke. After losing Gerald Henderson to the draft, the Blue Devils were going to be counting on Elliot Williams to provide them with size and athleticism on the perimeter. It was the insertion of Williams into the starting line-up, allowing Jon Scheyer to slide over to the point, that led to the Devil's resurgence late last season.
Now, Duke's line-up looks much less intimidating, especially in the back court. Outside of Scheyer and Nolan Smith, who can play back court minutes? Martynas Pocius? Unless they sign another guard late (Lamont Jones?), those will be the only three guards on Duke's roster.
To be fair, they should have a good front line. Kyle Singler and Miles Plumlee will be joined by freshman Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly (a top 25 recruit).
But who is going to get them the ball? Scheyer struggled so much last season when he was forced to play the off-guard. He was not quick or strong enough to score against ACC two-guards. Nolan Smith, who earned the starting spot in the off-season by outplaying Greg Paulus, struggled so much that Paulus, and then Williams, were given a chance as the starter.
Unless the Devils can find another wing, Coach K is going to have his work cut out for him.
Back to Williams, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that he will be transferring to Memphis, where Josh Pastner would gladly add another wing with Williams talent. Now, there are plenty of schools that fit the criteria of allowing the Memphis native to play "closer to home". But Williams took an official visit to Memphis, and according to Rivals it was one of his top four when he decided on Duke.
If Williams does, in fact, transfer to Memphis and become eligible this year, he will be an important piece for the Tigers. Right now, the Tigers really have one guy (Willie Kemp) that is a ball-handler. While Williams is not a true point guard in any sense, he proved last season that he is at the least capable of running the point when necessary.
Given his defensive ability and how effective he was as a slasher last season, Williams could end up being a real difference maker for Memphis.
No matter how you spin it, this is a bad break for the Devils. But if the kid really has a family member that is sick, what can you do?