In what has been a banner season for the NBA’s D-League — with a record 23 players getting called up to the bigs — no one has been more of a success story than Reggie Williams.
The Virginia Military Institute alum was dropping 26 points a night for the Sioux Falls Skyforce when he was brought up by the Golden State Warriors in early-March, and has stuck with the team ever since, averaging 14.9 points per game and cracking the starting lineup. In late-March, Williams was signed for the remainder of this season and the next, at a base salary of around $760,000 next season.
In the most recent issue of Dime, I profiled Reggie while he was still getting buckets in Sioux Falls, S.D. Just days before we sent the mag to print, he got his call-up. So the photo that ran with that article is apparently the last time you’ll ever see him in a minor-league uniform …
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In a way, Reggie Williams is a basketball purist. Not that he pores over footage of the 1962 Celtics or reads John Wooden strategy books, but more because he represents the fundamental basis of the game: Get more buckets than the other guy.
Williams puts the ball in the basket for a living. At Virginia Military Institute, the 6-6 swingman was the NCAA’s single-season scoring leader two times — dropping 28.1 points per game as a junior and 27.8 ppg as a senior — one of only nine players to ever accomplish that feat. He is also the all-time leading scorer in the Big South conference. Undrafted in 2008, Williams played one season in France (13.5 ppg), and this year is lighting up the scoreboards in the NBA Development League for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. As of early-March he was second in the D-League in total points, and third in scoring average at 26.4 points a night.
But NBA scouts already know Williams can score, and it hasn’t been enough to earn him a secure spot in the League. So now he’s looking to prove he can do other things on the court, as well as shake the notion that he was merely a product of VMI’s highly offensive dribble-drive motion system.
“I think that’s totally false, that I’m a product of the system,” says Williams, 23. “Look at the stats from my freshman and sophomore years in college, when we weren’t playing that (DDM) system. I averaged 15 my freshman year and 19 my sophomore year. I’ve always been able to score with any team I’ve played on.”
As for the rest of his game, Williams was averaging 5.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game at press time. He’s also been efficient, hitting 57 percent from the floor and 82 percent at the free-throw line.
Williams grew up in Prince George County, Va., where he lived on the Fort Lee military base due to his father’s veteran status. Reggie wasn’t a big-time recruit at Prince George High School, which he chalks up to not playing much AAU ball and having some trouble with his grades and the SAT. He chose VMI over Coastal Carolina, Radford and Longwood.
“The military aspect didn’t have anything to do with going to VMI,” Williams says. “And it didn’t make it any easier. My Dad actually wasn’t a really strict military guy. He was an inner-city kid who grew up in Detroit. He traveled, so he wasn’t home a lot. I had my freedom growing up, so having people yelling at you (at VMI) to do this a certain way or do that, I had times when I wanted to leave.”
The fact that his game blossomed in college, however, was at least indirectly a result of the school’s military regimen.
“When I first got there I was feeling a lot of stress with the way things were going, so I actually spent a lot of time in the gym, working out on my own, getting extra shots up,” Williams says. “So when I led the country in scoring, I was surprised, but I knew I’d put in a lot of hard work.”
Still, one of the knocks on Williams going into the ’08 Draft was that he was too laid-back and wasn’t aggressive enough. And it’s easy to see how some might read his smooth style as nonchalance. With his size, craftiness around the rim, and the fact that he’s not considered a great athlete — not to mention that he’s left-handed — Williams might remind you of Chris Douglas-Roberts, the New Jersey Nets’ second-year pro. Williams and CDR both shined in dribble-drive motion systems in college, only CDR was at Memphis, where he competed for national championships and had more exposure. Douglas-Roberts grew up in Detroit and has said he was greatly influenced by Jalen Rose; Williams also counts Rose as one of his basketball role models. That CDR has proven to be a double-digit scorer in the League bodes well for Williams.
“I know that I’m known as a scorer, but I want to show people I can do everything else,” Williams says. “That scorer label sticks with you, and yeah, I’m gonna score regardless. So I can average 25 a game, but I also want to get six or seven rebounds, five or six assists. I think I bring a lot more to the table.”