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Williams: the Hoyas' Man of All Positions

January 18, 1987|MICHAEL WILBON | The Washington Post

It was getting closer to the official start of basketball practice, and Reggie Williams was growing anxious. He was going to be Georgetown's only returning senior, and all his running buddies from previous years were gone.

Ralph Dalton, David Wingate, Michael Jackson and Horace Broadnax had graduated last spring, and Williams was wondering who was going to take their places.

Hoyas Coach John Thompson already had the answer to that question. Williams would take their places.

All of them.

That doesn't mean Georgetown doesn't have other good players. In fact, the nine new Hoyas form the nucleus of what probably will be a great team by the end of next season.

But a month into this season, when asked what he expects of his only senior, his 6-foot 7-inch, 190-pound all-America guard-forward-sometimes center, Thompson will say: "Right now, we're going to need Reggie to be our leading scorer, leading rebounder, and maybe the leader in assists and steals. He's got to play for himself and for other people, too."

Williams, the only player remaining from Georgetown's 1984 NCAA title team, says he doesn't mind doing more than his share. "At first it was strange to look around and not see anybody older than me," he said. "It was great playing with them, but I'm not backing away from the challenge of playing without them, either."

Many times, players have great junior seasons but falter the next year when expectations and pressures grow. Georgetown has played only 13 games this season, but there is no reason to think Williams, the once-terribly shy youngster who grew up in Baltimore, will finish it with anything but first-team all-America by his name.

Jan. 10, his four three-point field goals helped beat 14th-ranked Pittsburgh and, before that, he had 16 points and 9 rebounds in helping upset then-No. 10 St. John's. On Monday night, he had 20 points in Philadelphia to lead a victory over Villanova.

His 23.2 points-a-game average leads the Big East, which named him player of the week for last week, and for the second straight season he is leading his team in rebounding with nine a game.

One NBA scout watching Williams closely at Capital Centre was asked to compare him with Northeastern's Reggie Lewis and UCLA's Reggie Miller. "He's a lot better than one, and better than the other," the scout said. "Other than (Navy's) David Robinson, I think he's the best player in the country."

A graph of his development over the last four years would bear a diagonal line upward, athletically and socially. Only his appearance has remained virtually the same.

When the nation's basketball fans got their first real look at him, he was getting 19 points and 7 rebounds in Georgetown's national championship game victory over Houston.

It should have been a night only of joy for Williams, who had never been away from home for that long in his life. But there was an incident after the game that diminished the triumph.

In a live postgame interview on CBS, Williams stumbled through a couple of words, froze and couldn't get out another syllable. Thompson said this week that Georgetown got quite a few nasty letters soon after.

Undoubtedly, some of them disparaged Williams. Probably, others criticized Thompson, reasoning that, if he had allowed his players to talk with the media throughout the season, Williams wouldn't have been speechless.

It bothered Williams for much of the summer. "I was just so excited at that moment, I knew I needed to calm down," he said. "I knew there were people around the nation sitting in front of their TVs saying, 'Look at this, another typical basketball player. . . . ' "

What the people sitting at home didn't know was that Williams wasn't far removed from the days when he was so shy, his older sister Veronica recalled, "that Reggie would sometimes take his meals to his room if there were people in the house that he didn't know.

"You couldn't get him to say a word when he was younger," she said. "He would stay mostly to himself. But lately, I'd say in the last year or so, he runs his mouth all the time. I'm not around him enough now to know why, but he's Mr. Talk now. He's a lot different."

As it turns out, his personality has caught up with his game. From the time he and childhood buddy Tyrone (Mugsy) Bogues dropped baseball and wrestling for basketball, it was obvious that Williams had talent.

"Even when I first saw him in junior high, he was 6-3 and handled the ball a lot," former Dunbar coach Bob Wade said. "There was a softness in his shot and he ran the court, caught the ball well and was very graceful."

There was one thing Williams wanted to change about himself--his build.

"You know how when you're really young, your friends tease you and they can get you to do anything," Williams said.

"So I got some weights and started lifting. It lasted about two days. I was sore all over. I said, 'Forget this, I'll just stay the way I am.' "

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