Of all the returning players on the Golden Gopher basketball team, Rodney Williams has seen arguably the biggest jump in production between last season and this season. The 6-7 junior moved to the power forward position after Trevor Mbakwe's ACL injury, and has looked comfortable at that spot on the court. And his contributions are not just on the offensive end of the court--Williams is the team leader in steals.
Q: This year, your production has increased in basically all statistical areas. How much of that do you attribute to skill development, and how much to an increase in confidence?
A: I think it's just more about confidence for me. I know last year a lot of times I was really inconsistent just because of my confidence level. So I think this year it's more of a confidence thing.
Q: Your numbers especially went up in the first few games following Trevor Mbakwe's injury. Did anyone talk to you about stepping up, or was that something you just took upon yourself?
A: It was about 50-50. I've been getting people telling me that I need to step up since freshman year, but I never really gave myself enough confidence. I think it was pretty equal.
Q: You already have more steals than you had all of last season. Talk a little about your mentality on defense.
A: I think I've been here long enough to get Coach Smith's defense down and how he likes it. I think it's just more me just buckling down and paying attention more when it comes to the defensive end.
Q: Before the season, coach Tubby Smith mentioned working with you to change your shooting form. Has that still been a focus during the season?
A: We're still focused on it pretty heavily, but I haven't really taken as many jump shots, especially now being in the post. But in practice, we get after it. When we do shooting stuff, he's right there, right next to me, telling me what I need to fix. Like I said, it's a slow transition, but it's happening.
Q: What was going through your mind leading up to your 360 dunk against USC?
A: Andre Hollins and I got the trap. Then when the USC player fell with it, Dre kind of tipped a pass, and he was the one who yelled out, "Showtime!" So then, as soon as he said that, I knew that I had to get a 360 at home, because I hadn't gotten a fancy breakaway dunk for the crowd at home yet. So I knew which one I wanted to do.
Q: Another dunk that had everyone talking was your dunk over two people wearing chicken and pig suits at All-Star Friday Night back in October. How did you get the idea for that dunk?
A: They actually showed up while we were doing media stuff. So then coach Joe Esposito was like, "Why don't you just jump over the chicken?" I was like, "Alright." And once (All-Star Friday Night) started, I was like, "Man, I already jumped over Goldy, so just the chicken wouldn't be too exciting." Then Coach Esposito came up to me and told me to go grab both of them, so I grabbed both of them, and that was it.
Q: Do you feel like you should have won the contest instead of Joe Coleman?
A: No, because I didn't finish my (other) dunk. So he got it fair and square.
Q: How high is your vertical leap?
A: Last I checked it was about 36 inches. It's not as high as people think it is.
Q: Now that you are a junior, you have traveled to three early-season tournaments in warm locations. Which was your favorite?
A: Definitely Puerto Rico. I had been to California and Florida before, so that wasn't new to me, especially the Milk House (in Orlando). I played there so many times as a young kid. Puerto Rico, that was just fun, because that was my first time there. All you do is hear about that--you never really think you're going to get a chance to go out there. And then we won the tournament, so that definitely puts that above all of them.
Q: Eligibility-wise, you would be the only junior on the team if Julian Welch and Andre Ingram had not transferred. Is it nice to have them around?
A: It is kind of nice to have those other guys around. You kind of feel a little lonely at that junior spot. So it's fun. ...It's just nice to have some guys that have been through school and basketball as long as I have.
Get to Know Rodney Williams
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