Now a senior, ceiling feels more within reach for U's Williams

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 15, 2012 - 11:54 AM

Expectations of four years ago are all but gone, allowing senior Rodney Williams to play relaxed and become the star athlete the Gophers envisioned.

hide

Minnesota's Rodney Williams (33)

Photo: Frank Franklin Ii, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The anxiety of playing in a new game will never go away for Rodney Williams, a kid who once refused to go inside his house after returning from a heartbreaking Florida AAU tournament during elementary school. He sat still uniformed in his driveway then, using a basketball like a chair.

Williams doesn't put any less pressure on himself now, as a senior at Minnesota and one of the most important pieces on a Gophers men's basketball team that has high expectations, both within the conference and nationally.

But after last year's postseason -- which was full of personal success for Williams as the team pushed its way to the NIT championship game -- the game feels different.

"A lot of the pressure is gone," said Williams, easily the team's most consistent player early on for the 2-0 Gophers, who play host to Tennessee State on Thursday. "I was able to put a stretch of games together last year, show some consistency, and that was my problem throughout my career here."

Up until then, Williams' career was filled with more questions than answers. As a highly touted local recruit, he came to the Gophers in 2009, the subject of lofty expectations. He was lauded then -- and still is -- as one of the country's most athletic players. The tools were all there for him to become a great player.

But for two-plus seasons, he hadn't always lived up to the hype. He'd shown flashes of dominance, but he lacked consistency. Even if Williams had a great game, the immediate question would be, "Can he do it again?"

This year, the forward's play hasn't even been much of a discussion point. Expectations remain high, but after last season -- when Williams averaged 18 points and six rebounds over the last eight games -- he no longer really has to "prove" himself on the court.

He's averaging 14 points and 6.5 rebounds through two games while making 80 percent (12 of 15) of his field goal attempts.

"He's our best player, and he knows what we need from him on a nightly basis," teammate Trevor Mbakwe said. "He's been playing exceptionally well, and I'm happy that people are finally starting to see what we all expected from him four years ago when he first came here."

Williams has become close with Mbakwe, the only other player left over from a nationally ranked recruiting class that included eventual transfers Royce White and Justin Cobbs. But Williams said that his mindset during games is assisted by his trust and confidence in the entire roster. After all, Williams hasn't been the pegged "star" in any game so far, despite his solid performances.

"It's real nice to come out and not feel like you're the guy that's got to score all the points," he said. "It makes it a lot easier on everybody else when you have all these different weapons."

Coach Tubby Smith said a new polish can be seen in Williams' game in how he reacts when things "don't go his way."

"That's where he's improved as far as not letting stuff get under his skin," said Smith, although he noted that he'd like to see Williams continue to get better in that regard. "I see more of a maturity there, playing with more poise."

Of course, for a player passionate about the game from childhood, that doesn't mean the anxiety at the start of a game evaporates.

"For me, every game there's still anxiety there, just because you want to go out there and perform," he said. "But it leaves a lot earlier than it used to."

• As expected, Alvin Ellis and Alex Foster -- both from Chicago -- signed official letters with the Gophers on Wednesday. Ellis is a 6-5 wing who can play all three perimeter positions, while Foster is a 6-8 forward with good rebounding skills.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New Orleans 28 FINAL
Carolina 10
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Memphis 6:00 PM
Indiana
Cleveland 7:00 PM
Chicago
Philadelphia 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
Portland 9:00 PM
Sacramento
San Antonio 9:00 PM
Phoenix
LA Clippers 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Columbus
Los Angeles 6:30 PM
Detroit
Anaheim 7:30 PM
Dallas
Nashville 8:00 PM
Calgary
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 7:02 PM
Memphis
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Hamilton 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 am
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins and loses in football this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close