When Kevin Williams broke into Columbus East’s starting lineup as a sophomore, his main role was to be a defensive stopper.

Two years later, Williams still is a solid defensive player, but he has picked up an offensive game to go with it. The 6-foot-5 senior will help lead the Olympians into Friday’s battle against crosstown rival Columbus North.

“Whenever I first started playing with the varsity guys, (defense) was my only role,” Williams said. “I loved it, though, because I loved being able to stop guys, and I still do that. I take pride in my individual defense, and I also take pride in our defense as a team because I feel like we really play together on the defensive end of the court.”

Through three games this season, Williams ranks third on the East squad with 9.3 points a game. He also is the Olympians’ top rebounder.

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“The way they’ve been guarding (point guard) Parker (Chitty), I needed to step up for my team,” Williams said. “I feel like I’m pretty versatile, and I pride myself on that. I like to be able to do as much as I can for my team so that we can be as good as we possibly can.”

That includes his ability to guard all five positions on the floor.

“We can put him on a pretty good perimeter player,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “He can guard a post player. He’s very athletic, and he does a good job of thinking the game.”

Williams, who carries a 3.98 grade-point average, plans to play in college, likely at a Division III or NAIA school. He wants to study mechanical engineering.

“I can’t say enough about what he is to his teammates,” Brent Chitty said. “He’s a great teammate, hard worker, puts the time in. He’s a very talented young man.”

After opening the season with a blowout win against Heritage Christian, East fell at Bedford North Lawrence and at home to Class 3A No. 5 Silver Creek last weekend.

“Even though we had a couple of tough losses, it came to two pretty good teams,” Williams said. “Silver Creek is really good, and BNL is always really good at home, and it’s tough to play there. It’s still real early in the season, and we’re just still focused on getting a lot better in practice, focusing on the next game.”

That next game is a big one.

“I definitely want to beat North because that’s a big rival, and everybody gets excited for that game,” Williams said. “Other than that, the sky is the limit. I feel if we can play to our potential, we can do really big things.”

If you go

What: Columbus East vs. Columbus North boys basketball

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Columbus East High School

Admission: $ 5

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.