Brian Williams retools body, focus to lead Vols

Tennessee's Steven Pearl, left, and Brian Williams, right, celebrate after defeating Ohio State 76-73 during the NCAA tournament Sweet Sixteen at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Mo., Friday, Mar. 26, 2010.

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee's Steven Pearl, left, and Brian Williams, right, celebrate after defeating Ohio State 76-73 during the NCAA tournament Sweet Sixteen at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Mo., Friday, Mar. 26, 2010.

Tennessee's Brian Williams, right, celebrates with Steven Pearl after beating Ohio State on March 26.

Brian Williams enters his senior season with the Tennessee men's basketball team a self-proclaimed changed man.

It's noticeable at first glance: Williams' face is thinner, a result of the 15 pounds he lost after three July weeks with Frank Matrisciano, aka, "Hell's Trainer," in San Francisco.

Williams' status with the Vols has changed; he's now the projected starting center but with no Wayne Chism to share rebounding and put-back duties in the paint.

Williams considers himself more determined than ever, aware most in the Vols' fan base will have to see the changes in him on the court before they believe he's no longer soft.

"You hear all the junk people say, when I was suspended last year and whatever, but there's still gonna be 20,000 there every game this year,'' said Williams, who missed nine games last season after his involvement in the well-documented Jan. 1 traffic stop with three teammates. "I know they're out there watching.''

So does Matrisciano, the mysterious fitness and mental toughness guru in California's Bay Area who transformed former Oklahoma center and No. 1 NBA draft pick Blake Griffin into a machine.

"Google me, you'll see I wear a mask in all my pictures,'' Matrisciano said. "I don't want people to know who I am and recognize me, I just want to help people.''

The perfect candidate

So while attending a Tennessee-Kentucky basketball game last season to check up on former pupils - recent first-round NBA picks Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton - Matrisciano determined Williams would be a good candidate.

Vols coach Bruce Pearl had known about Matrisciano and his unique ways for years.

"Ernie (Grunfeld) introduced me to him; the first player I knew about him training was Ernie's son, Danny,'' Pearl said, referring to the former Stanford and current international star who also played on Pearl's Gold medal-winning Maccabi squad in 2009. "I knew Frank was very selective about who he took, and I've been very selective about who I might suggest to him.

"Brian was the perfect candidate. He needed training, and more importantly, he needed tips on training, understanding how to eat and take better care of himself.''

Matrisciano likes to talk about how only three out of every 10 who come to train with him stay for the amount of time they sign up for.

"I've had guys last 14 minutes, and then they leave,'' Matrisciano said. "Brian came in, and I told him straight up this wouldn't be like anything he has ever done. He came in knowing what it was about, and when he got here, he just attacked it.

"He worked extremely hard the three weeks he was here, and I'm proud of him.''

Williams' days consisted of 2 1/2 hours of basketball skill work each day with former Sacramento Kings head coach Eric Musselman. There also was 5-on-5 play, and then three hours of Matrisciano's excruciating work outdoors, most all on sand.

It was quite a jump for a player who just a couple weeks earlier could at times be seen lagging during Pilot Rocky Top League basketball action.

"I've always worked hard when I've had to,'' said the 6-foot-10 Williams, who dropped from 284 to 269 pounds. "But I didn't work hard when the lights were off, and that's how great players are made.''

Making it through

Williams remembers thinking to himself that if he could make it through three weeks with Matrisciano, he could make it through anything.

The first day involved three workouts in the sand, jumping over rope, back and forth, with sprints up a hill and climbs up several hundred stairs.

"It was so hard, we couldn't go any more,'' Williams said. "When Frank sees you can't go anymore, he tells you to stop.''

But Williams didn't want to stop. He didn't want to quit.

The player known as "Big Baby" to his teammates was on a roll, already a long way from the 370 pounds he weighed in high school, gaining ground on his goals with each drop of sweat.

"It's a matter of wanting to work hard, knowing you're going to get better, go harder and be faster,'' Williams said. "Tennessee's workouts have been hard. I remember my first one when I came here, I was so sore I had to miss a whole day's worth of class.

"People don't realize at Tennessee you work out, and you still got class, you still have to get your homework done while you're tired and sore, and your butt hurts even when you sit down.''

Williams admits it made him feel as though he needed to pace himself at times.

No more.

Motivation

"Since I got back earlier this month I've gotten up 2,700 shots,'' Williams said. "I might have got up 2,700 shots all last summer.''

Gone are the junk foods from his diet. Matrisciano insists on a diet of chicken, fruits, black beans, brown rice, organic peanut butter, water, organic cereal and 2-percent milk.

Just a couple of months before leaving for San Francisco, Williams' physique and poor diet was spoofed at the UT men's basketball banquet.

In a video consisting of the Vols' coaches making light of the players, assistant Marc Pancratz dressed in a blown-up sumo outfit wearing Williams' jersey.

Short missed shots, air-balled free throws, and scenes of Williams hiding boxes of pizzas in his locker drew laughter from the crowd.

"My diet wasn't that bad,'' Williams laughed. "Before I came to Tennessee, yeah, I'd drink two liters of Pepsi at a time. I wouldn't even get a cup, I'd just take the damn bottle out of the fridge and drink all of it.''

Just being around San Francisco, Williams said, is enough to make anyone want to trim up.

"I think I saw one McDonald's, and the M was on the floor,'' Williams said. "I saw maybe 20,000 people, and I think I saw three fat people. The hills there are ridiculous, they are a workout in themselves.''

In it to win it

But Williams knew he was in it for the duration.

"My mother was in the hospital when I left with walking pneumonia,'' Williams said. "I told her I wanted to go home to her, and she said, 'No.' She told me I needed to work hard, and it would pay off.''

Williams said he considered himself "Daddy's Boy" growing up, but all of that changed when his father died a week before he started his career at Tennessee.

"My dad always told me that as soon as I went away to college, he was going to pass away,'' Williams said. "I knew it was going to happen. Whatever he said, I believed. It was Parkinson's disease. He was 60.''

Williams asked Pearl not to release the news to the media at the time; he didn't want anyone's pity.

Nor does he want anyone feeling sorry for him now, especially after he embarrassed himself in January with the suspension.

"I had basketball taken away from me,'' Williams said. "I remember watching that Kansas game, and they (the Vols) were winning without us; the more the team kept winning, the badder it made us (suspended players) look.

"It was the longest month of my life. I realized there was a possibility I would never play at the University of Tennessee again.''

Williams wants to do more than just play this season.

He wants to lead. He wants to put his best on the floor, each and every time out.

"This is it,'' Williams said. "I got one shot.''

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Comments » 54

bluetick writes:

This sounds encouraging. I'd like to see B. Williams take it to the next level this year. Good luck Brian, we need you to make it happen this year!

prideofthesouthland writes:

I don't know him--but I love him.

davidjonahgibson writes:

good read.

MemphisVol writes:

GET HUGE Brian Williams!!! Slam it down!

Vols4Ever writes:

Brian has proven he can get through adversity. Loss of father, away from home, loss of basketball and taking on an incredibly challenging self improvement and makeover. A true Volunteer. Regardless of his upcoming season, he has grown from a Baby into a man.

richvol writes:

Great,great story. I wish nothing but success for Brian Williams now as I was one of his most vocal critics about his "soft play" last year.

This is something Scotty Hopson desperately needs. I wish Pearl could have gotten Scotty three weeks with this trainer as well.

chrisw2967 writes:

I just hope Hopson learned how to dribble in the off season.

brokebackvol writes:

Exciting just thinking of the possibilities this season. We've done Elite Eight now - how about a Final Four?!

GR82BAVOL writes:

I'm rooting for Williams. It would have to be hard to be a big man and be known as soft.

Come out this year like the beast we know you can be Brian!

volfan2002 writes:

He played great in the NCAA tourney last season and it looks like he is even at another level now. I think we'll have a good inside game with him, Fields, and Harris. I look forward to the season.

Fulton_Vol writes:

Sounds like the big man has turned another corner. Brain still has a huge upside and hopefully these three weeks in San Francisco has given him the tools to match his desire to succeed. I truly believe that great year from Brain can help us to the Final Four. Good luck to Brain and the rest of the b-ball team.

PennVol writes:

Great news - I think Williams is seeing his potential and working hard to increase his skills. Go Vols!

avolfan73 writes:

Great story!

PHAT_VOL writes:

GREAT Story ! I wish B-Ball season was starting today. GO BRIAN...........!
Very good story, GO VOLS !

eduardo writes:

Lets go win a championship!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brillovol writes:

Excellent story, but the Frank Matrisciano guy seems a little quirky to me. Maybe that's what makes him good.

Brian, now that my boy Wayne's gone, you are my favorite Vol. Work hard, stay healthy, and make some good memories for us.

GerryOP writes:

You da' man BW! Your year and your team! Put 'em on your shoulders and bring 'em home!

johnlg00 writes:

We will know if all this improved toughness and desire has really taken hold the first time Brian powers up for a vicious dunk with a couple of guys hanging on his arms. If he approaches every game and every possession with the kind of passion he was talking about, there is just no telling how good he and the Vols could be this season.

rbut5252#220065 writes:

I wish they'd stop calling him "Big Baby". The SEC has already had one of them. I'd rather him have his own identity. No great ideas right now, but I'm sure someone here could come up with something better than 'Big Baby' Maybe "B.A (Bad A**) Williams.

Orangeblood13 writes:

he needs alot more skills, we will see

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to richvol:

Great,great story. I wish nothing but success for Brian Williams now as I was one of his most vocal critics about his "soft play" last year.

This is something Scotty Hopson desperately needs. I wish Pearl could have gotten Scotty three weeks with this trainer as well.

I was critical of him last year too, richvol..He really turned it up when he returned from being suspended and he played his butt off during the Big Dance..He was totally worn out after the MSU game..He will make a great leader this year.

Chris4Vols22 writes:

GO VOLS!! Can't wait for basketball season!

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to volfan2002:

He played great in the NCAA tourney last season and it looks like he is even at another level now. I think we'll have a good inside game with him, Fields, and Harris. I look forward to the season.

Don't forget about Hall.

I have Brian penciled in as a good rebounder, a good defender, and a poor to mediocre offensive player (except for his passing, which is very good). If it turns out that he becomes an excellent rebounder and defender, and a good offensive player, this team will be much harder to beat.

And even if he doesn't improve that much, you won't be able to call him soft anymore, and you can't fault him for not trying. To be trying this hard, well you can't ask for anything more than for a young man to give it that.

Biggie writes:

Everytime I'd watch Brian I'd think; "This kid is real close to being a great player" This may have made him realize it too. Good Luck Brian, take it to 'em!

Bigger_Al writes:

I've always like Brian, and I've always called him "Big Ol' Boy". I still will. Very impressive use of his time this Summer.

PureOrange writes:

He has done some great things at UT, but I believe this year he will be a beast.

Looking for great things from him.

aldntn writes:

The Vols need Brian to own the paint this year. I think he's ready.

GO VOLS

BubbaJ writes:

I heard Williams was being trained by this guy. Then later saw him on a preseason NBA draft board as a second round pick. Hope this all plays out, both for the Vols in 2010, and Brian
on down the road.

MidTennVol writes:

We've been waiting for you to be a monster, Brian. To be a man down low.

If you want to see how it was done old-school, with heart, blood, sweat, tears, grit and stone-cold determination, suggest you start studying a man named Moses Malone.

Moses Malone, Brian. Study him, watch him, call him if you have to. If you become half the player he was at your age, you will do just fine.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to MidTennVol:

We've been waiting for you to be a monster, Brian. To be a man down low.

If you want to see how it was done old-school, with heart, blood, sweat, tears, grit and stone-cold determination, suggest you start studying a man named Moses Malone.

Moses Malone, Brian. Study him, watch him, call him if you have to. If you become half the player he was at your age, you will do just fine.

What you said about Moses Malone! In his prime, another great player was being interviewed about how relentless Moses was against his team. The interviewer asked the guy to comment on Moses' "second effort". The guy said, "Heck, everybody in this league has second effort; Moses has ninth and tenth effort." If Brian just gets to the point of showing fourth and fifth effort every possession, he will be a monster.

SunshineVol writes:

"This is it,'' Williams said. "I got one shot.'' Yeah, a brick.

NashvillePreds writes:

Our (group of friends) term of endearment for B. Williams, is "Hot Plate" Williams.

"Big Baby" waaaaay overdone.

RandRams writes:

BW appears dedicated---his play will reveal fact OR fiction. Good luck!

As for Moses Malone. I had the delight and privilege of watching him when he played for the Houston Rockets. One word...RELENTLESS.

Lostvolinhighweeds writes:

in response to WitchDoctorsDaddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

My question to you is, besides your hateful, meanspirited attitude, do you have any reason whatsoever to imply that young Mr. Williams has done ANYTHING illegal?

pammyvol1000 writes:

Someone posted a link last week with a shot of Williams and he looks like a different person. His upper body is muscle!!

UTbassdrummer writes:

in response to chrisw2967:

I just hope Hopson learned how to dribble in the off season.

This story is about Brian Williams and how
hard he's working. You must've misread
it.

Good work, BW. Lets pound the paint!!

Lostvolinhighweeds writes:

in response to WitchDoctorsDaddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Acttualy, if he doesn't charge any college student for his services, it is not an extra benefit. I doubt any student that is NOT an athelete would be interested.
And yes, the manner in which you posed your 'questions' made them seem like an unfounded implication. Further, how do you know KNS did not ask those questions and based on the answeres, simply decided they were not relevent?

HtownVol writes:

Williams has shown that he can very well be a dominant player. I hope those 2700 shots were all coached and he was practicing his form on each one. If its the same shot, its not going to help. I do love it when he (rarely) dunks the ball like he is trying to bring the rim down. Like his overall game he has the ability but rarely uses it.

Hopson... same exact statement, but SO MUCH more potential. What are the odds we can stop hearing "I am going to play harder"?

Scotty, Please stop talking and DO IT! It will be strange but I actually see Harris being the leader of this team. Harris hs the talent and unlike Hopson he will actually show it every game. Dont get me wrong I want so much for Scotty to reach his potential but how long can he bottle it up before it is gone?

Will the leader of this team please step up.
Goins
Williams
Harris
Hopson
???
I just want a Championship

BleedsOrangeinMO writes:

Ok a new nickname should be . . . skinny or skinny man. Something along this line. Because he had to lose a lot of weight to come to UT. He weighed 370 in high school; so he has now (he's at 269 now)lost 101 pounds. That's an entire cheerleader!!!!
GO VOLS . . . WE ARE UT!!!

TK writes:

This is suppose to be a pic of BW the other day.
http://twitpic.com/2gjkj9

cltvol writes:

we went to elite 8 because BW came around and was a consistent, inside force,,,sky is the limit cause he's got very good feet and hands which aint' common for 6-10ers..rest is up to him

MikeTheTiger writes:

LSU fan rooting for you Brian!

miatatom writes:

Keep working hard, Brian. Please practice your free throws. Get Hopson to join you. GO VOLS!!!!!

General_bob writes:

in response to rbut5252#220065:

I wish they'd stop calling him "Big Baby". The SEC has already had one of them. I'd rather him have his own identity. No great ideas right now, but I'm sure someone here could come up with something better than 'Big Baby' Maybe "B.A (Bad A**) Williams.

I think "Big Smooth" would be much more fitting than big baby. BW has the smoothest passing hands of any big man I have ever seen on the Hill.

veinsoforange writes:

in response to prideofthesouthland:

I don't know him--but I love him.

Ditto!
Big "B" is the definition of dedication/determination if you really think about his progression to where he is at now.
Gooooooooooooo Brian, Go Vols!!!!

It continues to be so uplifting in feeding off our basketball program's energy throughout the Pearl era!!!!

globadoc writes:

in response to TK:

This is suppose to be a pic of BW the other day.
http://twitpic.com/2gjkj9

Oh great Big Orange God, let this be an authentic picture and Brian Williams be in as much shape as it appears. If this is a real pic (non-photoshopped) and BW has in fact put up 2700 shots (and presumably figured out how to make at least 1800 of them), he ought to be a beast this year.

Are there many high-quality centers elsewhere around the league? Orton and Cousins are gone from UK, Mississippi State lost Varnado, Ogilvy (snicker) left Vandy. Who's left?

globadoc writes:

in response to WitchDoctorsDaddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Google Search (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/colleg...):
"Matrisciano trained the Griffins [Blake and older brother Tyler] for free. He said he doesn't accept payment from high school and college players, though they are responsible for their living expenses."

You're assuming too much to declare his family to be broke.

Cheap accommodations can be had in SF for 3 wks if you're a college student. Hostels can be found for around $20-25/night. Even at $50, you're only looking at $1000. Double that for food and you're OK.

Also, since Frank does not charge ANY college athletes, and he's been working with lots of college hoops players (Griffin, Patrick Patterson, just to name 2), one can safely assume that his services are NCAA-acceptable.

BigBadVol writes:

Hell yea Brian! I am officially a Brian Williams fan. Make the Vol nation proud.

KnoxKiffin writes:

The basketball Vols (men and women) are going to be great this year.

johnlg00 writes:

I think we have just seen the most-recent incarnation of "BigOrangeKoolaid" on this board in WitchDoctorsDaddy. Same insinuating drivel, different day.

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