Former Gopher Williams hopes to sneak onto an NBA team

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 30, 2013 - 1:09 AM

Ex-Gopher Rodney Williams hopes to play in the NBA but is a longshot with his size and skills.

hide

Former Gopher Rodney Williams participated in the Wolves pre-draft camp at Target Center on Wednesday, hoping to improve his draft prospects.

Photo: JERRY HOLT • jgholt@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

A couple miles from Williams Arena, Rodney Williams is still the same player, full of unusual athleticism and unanswered questions.

At the Timberwolves’ pre-draft workout Wednesday, Williams, as always, wowed with a raw ability that is rare enough to have compelled many to make great projections for him four years ago. He can kiss the rim and jump out of the building. He can be a slasher and a scorer.

Sometimes.

But on the NBA floor at Target Center, Williams also shows the limitations of an uneven four-year college career. He’s not always aggressive. His shot comes and goes. He’s most comfortable at power forward, where he spent most of the past two seasons with the Gophers, but he doesn’t belong there at the next level. He’s shaped like a guard in every place but his mind.

That picture paints a potentially tough road ahead for Williams, predicted to be chosen late in the second round of the NBA draft by some — or not at all by others. He could wind up looking for work overseas.

“It’s been pretty tough trying to live up to the expectations, especially … after being in the talk about being a lottery pick in freshman year,” Williams said. “Having my consistency be so up and down during those four years at the ‘U’ — it was tough to really live up to the expectations. But that’s part of it. I signed up to go to college to play ball and I knew all that comes with it. It’s such a grind now, and I’ve got to keep working hard so I can go out here and fulfill my dream.”

Asked what about Williams’ game translates to the next level, the blunt response came swiftly from new Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders, who also has more than 600 victories as an NBA head coach.

“Right now, nothing,” said Saunders, who cited shooting skills and ball handling as areas in which Williams needs to improve greatly. “So with Rodney, that’s going to be where he is now — can he make that transition over the next three weeks and use his athleticism defensively and maybe tickle somebody’s fancy by how he plays?”

Williams was not among the 60 prospects invited to the NBA predraft combine in Chicago. He had impressive marks in a number of areas at a different workout in New Jersey, including a 36-inch no-step and 42.5-inch max vertical leap — which would have ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, at the Chicago combine had he been there.

But pure athleticism doesn’t always turn into manifest success on the court, where the Minneapolis native and former Cooper standout has shown flashes of intensity and dominance in the past. Too many reluctant interludes, however, keep those moments from being the end story. An old hindrance showed up Wednesday when Williams — who has been working on his shooting — airballed a three-pointer.

“It’s a different story when you have to play against people, and that’s usually how we play games, against people, not by yourself,” Saunders said. “We know he’s always been a great athlete, but at this level you just don’t get by with athleticism.”

What Williams’ role would be in his dream scenario is just as ambiguous now as where he will call home in a month. In high school, Williams played center. With the Gophers, he played on the wing at times but settled into power forward when it was clear that he would be most productive there. Saunders said Williams might actually be more like a shooting guard in terms of size. But without the skill set necessary to succeed at that position, it’s hard to determine how he’ll fit.

With workouts scheduled at Houston and Detroit, Williams has at least two more opportunities to coax an NBA team to carve out a role for him.

“I definitely feel confident,” Williams said. “I feel like out here, I had a pretty decent showing and, in New Jersey, I feel like I had a decent showing as well. … Hopefully somebody sees something that they like in me and hopefully I can get on a team, sneak on a team somewhere.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 0 1st Qtr 6:45
Pittsburgh 0
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 68 3rd Qtr 1:15
Cleveland 79
New Orleans 66 3rd Qtr 0:43
Washington 46
Milwaukee 56 2nd Qtr 0:39
New York 59
Philadelphia 42 3rd Qtr
Brooklyn 49
Charlotte 43 3rd Qtr
Atlanta 58
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Memphis 0 1st Qtr 12:00
Dallas 0
Tampa Bay 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local team are you currently most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close