For U's Williams, confidence makes big difference

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2012 - 12:40 PM

Rodney Williams has been a model of consistency, and he hopes his steady play continues with the Big Ten season here.


Gophers forward Rodney Williams blossomed into a leader in the second half of last season, and he hasn’t let up 14 games into his senior campaign.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The difference in Rodney Williams from last year to this year is simple, and can be told in a single anecdote:

When the senior scored only two points against South Dakota State earlier this month, it was simply an anomaly. It wasn't a drawn-out story line; it wasn't a question of reverting to his sometimes-deferring past. And in the Gophers' following game, at Southern California, Williams bounced right back, notching a double-double and sliding immediately back into the consistency that has defined his senior season.

For those who have watched the talented forward struggle to harness all of his natural athleticism and find dominance, this season has been like watching a butterfly flutter effortlessly out of a cocoon. Williams has taken the spark he showed at the end of last season and translated it to what has been a career year heading into Big Ten play, which begins with the No. 11 Gophers playing host to No. 19 Michigan State on Monday.

Did Williams camp out in the gym all summer, shooting jump shots? Did he practice rebounding and finishing drills long after everyone was gone? Did he change some fundamental aspect of how he approaches the game?

Not really. Williams does his fair share of hard work, but the X-factor, the Minneapolis native and Cooper High School product will frankly say, has been confidence.

"I would always let little things get to me in the past," he said. "But having to step up last season when Trevor [Mbakwe] went down, just that confidence in myself and seeing that my teammates are really confident in me, that really helps a lot."

That was when the spark started. With Mbakwe out last season after injuring his right knee, Williams' season changed in two ways: First, he was forced to move to power forward from his spot on the wing; second, he became the team's leader by default.

"Early in that season when he was playing, it was definitely easy to sit back and watch the Trevor show," Williams said. "Being forced into that position [of leadership], that definitely helped."

Both adjustments seemed to have a major effect on Williams' production. This season, he hasn't skipped a beat, displaying impressive consistency in scoring at least 12 points and pulling down at least five rebounds in all but two of the Gophers' 13 games.

"We've all been waiting for it, really," Mbakwe said. "He's shown flashes in the past, but I think last year, especially once I went out, he really had no choice -- the team needed him and he showed up for us. I think he's still riding that wave."

The pressure seems to have evaporated. When Williams has a game like that against South Dakota State, he shakes it off now.

"To have that two-point game a couple years ago, I probably would have fell into that string of bad games again," Williams said.

But this season, he has already proven some things to himself. "When I could see that I can do it -- not just one game," he said, noting that he has been surprised at how he has been able to bounce back in games this season. "That's all it is for me, just being consistent. When I see something working and I can keep going to it, that definitely builds my confidence."

There was speculation in the preseason over whether Williams would be able to produce as he has, with Mbakwe back in the lineup and the possibility of Williams' return to small forward. But so far, Smith has kept Williams at power forward, and together the pair has excelled playing side-by-side down low.

"He's much more comfortable around the basket," coach Tubby Smith said. "We were playing him at the 3 last year, and it was hard for him to guard guys as well as score out on the perimeter."

Monday, Williams will likely be guarding another wing-turned-forward in Michigan State's Branden Dawson, and with more post-oriented opponents in the near future, Williams could wind up seeing some time back at his old position. But Williams continues to surprise himself and feels a resolution toward whatever hits him now.

"There's no next year for me," he said. "I've just got to stay confident myself and go out there and have fun."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 0 Top 1st Inning
Minnesota 0
New York 13 1st Qtr 5:42
Indiana 16
Phoenix 13 1st Qtr 4:33
Orlando 19
Cleveland 6:30 PM
Utah 6:30 PM
Charlotte 6:30 PM
Denver 7:00 PM
Detroit 7:00 PM
New Orleans
LA Lakers 7:00 PM
Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Memphis 7:00 PM
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
Golden State
Portland 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Ottawa 6:30 PM
NY Rangers 7:00 PM
Pittsburgh 9:00 PM
Montreal 9:00 PM
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 44 2nd Half 11:20
UNC-Asheville 49
Ohio State 37 2nd Half 15:50
Penn State 38
Maine 7 1st Half 11:46
Albany 17
Duquesne 16 1st Half 13:41
Fordham 11
George Washington 9 1st Half 13:52
George Mason 11
Tennessee 16 1st Half 8:38
LSU 20
Notre Dame 26 1st Half 9:18
Louisville 18
SE Missouri St 16 1st Half 10:50
Morehead State 14
St Francis-PA 15 1st Half 11:27
Mount St Marys 6
Hartford 13 1st Half 11:45
New Hampshire 14
Wagner 17 1st Half 10:17
Robert Morris 26
Long Island 16 1st Half 7:57
St Francis-NY 20
La Salle 11 1st Half 9:54
Saint Josephs 17
Providence 16 1st Half 10:20
Seton Hall 20
UCF 8 1st Half 10:00
South Florida 25
Binghamton 14 1st Half 11:02
Stony Brook 16
UMBC 10 1st Half 7:58
Vermont 17
Sacred Heart 20 1st Half 12:02
Bryant 15
Richmond 6:30 PM
Wake Forest 7:00 PM
Purdue 7:00 PM
Michigan State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
St Bonaventure 7:00 PM
Saint Louis
New Mexico St 7:00 PM
TX-Pan American
Houston 7:00 PM
Howard 7:00 PM
SIU Edwardsville 8:00 PM
Eastern Ill
St Johns 8:00 PM
TCU 8:00 PM
Oklahoma State
Cincinnati 8:00 PM
USC 8:00 PM
Miss State 8:00 PM
Utah State 8:00 PM
Air Force 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Nebraska 9:00 PM
Colorado State 9:00 PM
Boise State 9:00 PM
San Jose St
San Diego St 10:00 PM
Oregon 10:00 PM
Oregon State
UC Santa Barbara 10:59 PM
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 41 2nd Half 10:13
Indiana 48
Clemson 22 2nd Half
Georgia Tech 43
Davidson 15 1st Half 9:29
La Salle 23
Loyola-Maryland 13 1st Half 11:42
Lafayette 11
Boston U 16 1st Half 8:48
Colgate 8
Coll of Charleston 7 1st Half 11:44
James Madison 21
Delaware 13 1st Half 12:42
Elon 11
Drexel 19 1st Half 8:50
Northeastern 8
Hofstra 11 1st Half 13:39
UNC-Wilmington 7
Towson 17 1st Half 10:49
William & Mary 21
Miami-Ohio 9 1st Half 9:32
Akron 15
Ball State 16 1st Half 9:24
Central Michigan 14
Buffalo 11 1st Half 10:47
Bowling Green 9
Western Mich 5 1st Half 10:36
Eastern Michigan 13
Ohio U 15 1st Half 9:00
Kent State 18
Youngstown St 11 1st Half 10:39
Cleveland State 14
Illinois-Chicago 10 1st Half 9:22
Wright State 21
Alabama 6:25 PM
Detroit 7:00 PM
Purdue 7:25 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question