Position Preview: Small Forwards

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The Golden Gopher men's basketball team opens its regular season against Bucknell this Friday, Nov. 11. During the final days before the opener, Gophersports.com will preview what to look for at different positions. The first installment (below) focuses on the centers/power forwards. Today the focus is on forwards, followed by the guards tomorrow.

As the returning starter at the small forward position, Rodney Williams Jr. will be important to the Gophers' success this year. During Minnesota's two exhibition games, the 6-7 junior appeared more confident than in the past. He scored 10 points and pulled down four rebounds in each of the two contests. Trevor Mbakwe was the only other Gopher to score in double figures in both games. Williams averaged 6.8 points per game last season.
Go Gophers! Rodney Williams
Go Gophers!
Williams is the veteran of the small forwards.
Go Gophers!

Head coach Tubby Smith said two areas in which he wanted Williams to improve during the offseason were aggressiveness and shooting. Williams, a career 51-percent free throw shooter, made his first nine free throws of the exhibition game. He ended up 4-for-9 in the Augustana game, so the extent of his shot transformation is yet to be determined. Reworking shooting mechanics is a difficult process. Even if he does not become a great shooter, Williams will have an impact if he can drive to the basket. That is where the strength and aggressiveness--and certainly confidence--will come into play.

While Williams will likely be more of a threat driving to the hoop, redshirt freshman Oto Osenieks is expected to score from the outside. He had limited looks during the exhibition games, missing one three-pointer against Bemidji State and making 1-of-2 triples against Augustana. At 6-8 like Williams, he could also grab some rebounds.

The Gophers also have a pair of players listed as guards who could also play small forward. Sophomore Austin Hollins and freshman Joe Coleman could play either small forward or shooting guard. Hollins has the better shot of the two, so he would likely play at the "two" spot if they were on the floor at the same time. Coleman, Minnesota's Mr. Basketball last season, averaged 21.5 ppg during Hopkins High School's state championship run. More about Hollins and Coleman will appear in the guards preview tomorrow.

As a junior and returning starter, Williams will need to step up and lead the less experienced players. With this young team especially, the Gophers need him more than ever to play well consistently. Once the newcomers get acclimated to the competition, they can help take some of the pressure off.

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