Dec 31, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Rodney Williams (33) is congratulated by fans following the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Williams Arena. Minnesota defeated Michigan State 76-63. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the club, Rodney Williams

Minnesota has never been a state of elite dominance in high school basketball.  There has been talent along the way with the likes of Kris Humphries, Devean George, and Kevin McHale.   A combined 41 players from the state of Minnesota have played at least one game in the NBA or the ABA.  Five of those players still play in the association today.

Yet, none of the 41 names have possessed the pure athleticism that Rodney Williams contains.

Coming out of high school, Williams was heralded as the most athletic player in the nation in a class already filled with NBA stars.  Now, just four years later, the small forward is close to ending his reign at the University of Minnesota.

Dec 31, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Rodney Williams (33) dunks during the first half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Williams Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The high-flying, acrobatic senior scored his 1,000th career point in Sunday’s victory against Northwestern.   With just under 11 minutes to go in the opening half, Williams received the ball from point guard Maverick Ahanmisi and notched a layup.

Accumulating 1,000 points has been a big deal at Minnesota.  With the lack of dominance and having multiple infractions with the NCAA within the program, only 38 players have joined the club.

The top scorer in the program’s history is Mychal Thompson with 1,922 points.  “The Franchise” dominated the paint in the late 70’s for the Gophers.

The addition of Williams is different than most names on the list.

As Williams became a Gopher, there were comparisons to Vince Carter and other elite dunkers.  Dunks were a part of his game.  A true jump shot was not.

He never became a big scoring threat at Minnesota, but few imagined that the 6’7” athlete ever would.  The scouting reports on Williams hints on his athleticism, his ability to drive to the lane and get physical, and the innate skill of playing defense at a high level.

The inability to knock down an easy basket hindered much of Williams’ career as a Gopher.

There were massive struggles during Williams freshman season.  After a stellar three-game start, the love from the coaching staff shrunk dramatically during the 76 Classic in Anaheim.  He played only three minutes in the win against Butler and only got 20 minutes of playing time once more all season.

It was not what the general public expected.

While Williams shot the ball at a high percentage, he did not show a sense of awareness on the court and looked lost during many points of the game.  The freshman needed focus if he ever wanted to become a star.

Sophomore year came and went with some improvement, but it was the jump that Williams made during his junior campaign that forced a sense of leadership and commitment to the program.

The Gophers were depleted with injuries and needed scoring.

After two and a half seasons at Minnesota, Williams decided to step up and contribute. He was able to move to the power forward position on the court and eased into the position.

Less shots, more dunks.  It was a perfect formula for Williams.

Since the transition, Williams has been able to rack up points on a consistent basis.

In the last four seasons, four new names have been added to the 1,000-point club at Minnesota, including Williams.  Lawrence Westbrook, a scoring point guard, entered the club in 2010.  Blake Hoffarber and Ralph Sampson joined Westbrook in the following consecutive seasons.

A fifth player in five years will likely be added in 2014 with Austin Hollins.

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