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Rodney Williams Represents What is Right About College Basketball

11/09/2012, 9:00am CST
By Rob Litt

It's time for Gophers fans to appreciate his career.

Hopefully there will be many opportunities like this for Gophers fans to show appreciation for Williams.

He didn't ask for the hype. He didn't seek the attention NBA Mock Draft experts. He didn't set unrealistic expectations for himself. No, Rodney Williams didn't ask for any of that.

Instead, all he's done at the U is stay focused on and off the court throughout his career. He's on pace to graduate, he's a team leader on and off the court, he's improved every year he's been a Gopher and he's positioning himself to get drafted in the NBA. In other words, he's an example of everything that is right with college basketball.

It's time that Gopher fans appreciate who he is, what he's become and what he's meant to the University of Minnesota.

Rodney came to the U in a much-hyped 2009 recruiting class that included Royce White, Trevor Mbakwe and Justin Cobbs. Royce never played a minute for the Gophers, Cobbs lasted a year before bolting, and Trevor's legal and injury issues are well-documented. Meanwhile Rodney has been a pillar of consistency both on and off the court.

All too often in the world of college basketball, fans and media get upset if players don't meet the expectations that they've set for the athlete. The one-and-done era has done that to itself. We put high school kids on pedestals they often don't want or deserve and then get upset when they don't achieve that. We criticize young freshmen and sophomores that they don't have complete games. We pay more attention to YouTube shenanigans than we do taking care of business. And as a result, we don't enjoy the ride as much as we should.

Well Gopher fans, it's time to enjoy the Rodney Williams ride as well as the fruits of his labor.

Criticism has been thrown Tubby Smith's way as a guy that players don't improve under. Sometimes that has merit, but sometimes it doesn't. Rodney Williams is a great example of the latter. No player has improved year over year like Rodney Williams has at the U since Quincy Lewis more than a decade ago. The numbers don't lie, and neither do the intangibles such as leadership, consistency and attitude. But back to the numbers:

Talk about college basketball and the Golden Gopher Basketball Team on the Tubby's Barn message board.
Year Minutes Points Rebounds Steals Blocks FG% 3P%
Freshman 11.9 4.3 1.6 0.4 0.7 .540 .286
Sophomore 24.7 6.8 3.5 0.6 0.7 .467 .213
Junior 31.9 12.2 5.6 1.3 1.4 .564 .309

Rodney's leadership is also obvious. Players like Austin Hollins, Wally Ellenson, Charles Buggs and others comment on how he mentors them.

"I am a lot more of a vocal leader now," Williams said. "I want to show guys on the court and be somebody that guys will listen to. I think for the most part it's working."

Charles Buggs said that Rodney specifically has mentored him. "I’m always asking Rodney questions. He’s always telling me how he’s done this and that and he’s always giving me tips."

"I'm trying to work with Charles on keeping his composure, trying to demonstrate how to behave on and off the court" Williams said.

The book on Williams has one big chapter left to be written. It will be filled with amazing highlight dunks, improved shooting and ball handling, intimidating blocks and an ever-present smile. More importantly, it will be filled with a boy who entered the program four years ago and is leaving a man.

"I want to be known as hard worker throughout the bad and good times. I want to be known as a good player but also a good person," Williams said.

He already has that reputation and fortunately for Gopher fans, we have a full year to let him know how much we appreciate him.

Tag(s): Gopher Basketball