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Williams gives Tony Wroten a preview of NBA vertical.
When a team loses its best player, the remaining members can either go into the tank or rise to a previously unseen level of excellence. Trevor Mbakwe's injury might have denied the Gophers a chance at the NCAA tournament, but it accelerated the development of his frontcourt mate Rodney Williams.
Williams' elite athleticism had NBA draft analysts gushing after only three college games back in 2009. Tubby Smith then chained him to the bench for much of the remaining season.
Williams' productivity was inconsistent as a sophomore, and then Mbakwe got hurt against Dayton early this past season.
Williams was only averaging 7.6 points per game before Mbakwe's injury, with five single-digit scoring games in the first seven. After the injury, Williams was held below 10 points only seven times the rest of the season.
His productivity ramped up as the season went on, peaking during the Gophers' run to the NIT championship game. Over the season's final six games, Williams averaged 19.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, scoring 18 or more in all but the final loss to Stanford.
For the season, Williams finished in the Big Ten's Top 10 in rebounds, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, effective FG percentage and true shooting percentage. For those efforts, he didn't even get an honorable mention in the All-Big Ten selections. If he maintains last season's effectiveness with Mbakwe back in the lineup, the Gophers might return to the Big Dance.