Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 2/23/12

Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Rodney Williams is a bonafide NBA draft prospect. Not so much this year, but for 2013 (where we have him projected as a mid-2nd rounder), and I can’t for the life of me understand why. (But I’m a NFL draftnik, not an NBA draftnik) When fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives this week, the 6-7, 205 junior forward from Minneapolis just disappeared in the 2nd halves of both games. Each of these contests saw Minnesota drop a second half lead and eventually lose.

When you lead the team in scoring, rebounding, blocks, steals, field goal percentage and minutes, you are expected to BE the leader, and THE GUY who takes over in crunch time.

In the loss at Northwestern, Williams had 7 points at halftime, but just two points and two shots in the second twenty minutes. In the 66-61 loss to Michigan State, Williams VANISHED in the second half when Minnesota Tubby Smith needed him most. And in the closing minutes with the game tied, he cost his team dearly at both ends of the floor.

The Gophers had just lost their final lead of the evening, and the score was tied. Minnesota ran a clear out for Williams, and he had the ball at the top of key with a whole wing and a lane to work with. Instead, he froze and gave the ball up, and the Gophs settled for a horrible three point attempt on the other wing that missed badly.

It reminded me of what Tubby said at Northwestern after the loss. He was asked if his players were feeling pressure.

“I hope they felt pressure, that’s what the game is about, what sports is about- measuring yourself. The great players want that challenge, they seek it, they embrace it.”

Because this was the complete opposite.

Back to the game, Williams committed a really dumb foul on Keith Appling, who then sank two free throws to give the Spartans the lead, and they never looked back.

I asked Northwestern coach Bill Carmody what was the key to containing Williams in the second half of his game versus Minnesota.

“We didn’t concentrate on him, but it’s just one of those things in the zone, Coach Hill did a very good job in the scouting report, he’s a very good player, but nothing special on him, know who he is and keep him off the boards if you can,” he said articulating the importance of the 1-3-1 zone.

Now I admit the NBA Draft is the world of David Kay, not myself, so maybe I’m missing something. In Williams, I see a three with no real outside jumper or ability to take anyone off the dribble. And a horrendous foul shooter who’s seen his numbers improve greatly as he’s moved from the three to the four after Trevor Mbakwe (the one true NBA Draft prospect on the team) went down. Of course, Williams is way too skinny to play the four at the next level.

Again, I just don’t see it.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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