CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Marvin Williams feels like he’s coming home.
Nine years after leading the North Carolina men’s basketball team to a national championship, Williams returns to the Tar Heel state as a member of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.
“North Carolina has always been like a second home to me,” Williams said Monday at an introductory news conference after signing a two-year, $14 million deal.
Williams returns with a chance to make an immediate impact as a starter, just as he did as a freshman helping the Tar Heels defeat Illinois 75-70 in the 2005 national title game.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford views the 6-foot-9 Williams as a combo forward, but said his best position is at power forward.
Williams, who turned 28 in June, could start right away.
The Hornets lost last year’s starting power forward Josh McRoberts to Miami in free agency, leaving them a pair of inexperienced power forwards in second-year player Cody Zeller and rookie Noah Vonleh. Clifford said Zeller is improving, but that Vonleh is still raw and a couple years away from being a major contributor.
“Marvin is a proven veteran player with high character and high IQ,” Clifford said of the nine-year NBA veteran. “You watch him play at both ends of the floor and everything he does makes sense. I think he will bring versatility.”
Clifford said the Hornets were impressed with Williams’ transformation into a 3-point weapon in recent years.
He shot 36 percent from 3-point range over the last three seasons, making 84 shots from beyond the arc last season – a number Clifford would like to see increase in 2014-15.
Clifford said Williams’ outside shooting should help ease the pressure on center Al Jefferson in the low post by giving the Hornets more options in pick and roll situations and when Jefferson is double teamed In the low post, a common occurrence last season.
Williams brings the added benefit of having played with Jefferson, a third-team All-NBA selection, for one season in Utah in 2012-13.
“Al is such a dominant presence in the post,” Williams said. “I don’t know if there is a center that can guard Al by himself. I think I can personally benefit, and help Al as well, by using spacing to knock down shots. If you put a lot of good shooting around Big Al you make it difficult for other teams to defend.”
In his nine seasons in the NBA since, Williams has played in 626 games with Atlanta and Utah, averaging 10.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 29.1 minutes per game. He’s a 44.7 percent career shooter from the field and 33.5 percent from 3-point land.
Williams started 66 games for the Jazz last season, averaging 9.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 25.4 minutes.
Williams said the idea of returning to North Carolina intrigued him for a variety of reasons.
He remains friends with several former teammates from the Tar Heels national championship team, many of whom still live in the Greensboro area. He also has family in state on his father’s side.
There are other connections, too.
Along with having played with Jefferson, he’s worked with Hornets assistant coach Mark Price and knows team owner Michael Jordan, also a former Tar Heel.
Williams said he believes the Hornets are a team on the rise after winning 43 games last season and capturing the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs before getting swept by the Heat.
“The city of Charlotte kind of jumped on this team’s back last year and I saw something special,” Williams said. “I really wanted to be part of that.”