Ever since Rodney Williams arrived on the campus of the University of Minnesota, he was targeted by some scouts as a top talent destined for the NBA.
Some experts have even called him one of the top 5 collegiate players in regards to next year’s NBA draft, which would come after his sophomore year with the Gophers.
One has to wonder what exactly they see in the uber-athletic Williams that would make them think he’s more likely to become the next Kevin Durant instead of the next Gerald Green. Williams can leap out of the building, with general athletic skills that rate above the majority of NBA players. However, he also struggles at many of the key skills that differentiate Green, a first-round draft bust despite freakish athleticism, and the league’s best players.
Heading into his second season in Tubby Smith’s system, Williams has not shown the ability to handle the basketball, break down a defender to get his own shot and hasn’t developed a consistent shooting touch. In fact, when you compare his skill-set with Green, you’ll find many similarities. Green had the ability to do two things – shoot from the 3-point line on occasion and break off breath-taking dunks when there was an open lane to the basket.
Within only a few years after being drafted, Green found himself out of the league and struggling in developmental leagues because he never figured out there was more to being a basketball player than simply having great athletic ability.
Williams could be headed down the same path, unless he drastically improves his ball-handling and develops a mid-range jumper. Imagine Williams if he could just take two dribbles to turn that 21-foot jump shot into a 15-footer where he could use his leaping ability to sky over defenders and get a clear look at the rim. He’d be frightening for Big Ten coaches to game plan against.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any indication as of yet that Williams will develop those skills, and that could not only be the difference between a Gophers season that sees them battling for a Big Ten Championship instead of battling to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, it could also be the difference between meeting the expectations of those NBA scouts and ending up the next Gerald Green. I’m betting on the latter.