Rodney Williams looks to prove he’s NBA-ready

Jace Frederick

Former Gophers forward Rodney Williams already notices the differences between college basketball and the professional game.

“The grind’s a little bit harder,” he said. “You’ve got to put in extra, extra time in the gym to go out there and be able to compete with the best.

Williams put in some of that gym time Wednesday morning as he and other draft hopefuls worked out for the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. Williams seemed pleased with his performance.

“I think it went pretty well,” he said. “For the most part, I shot the ball pretty well.”

Flip Saunders, the new Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations, said Williams needs to improve his ball skills and shooting skills while becoming more of a perimeter player. He said Williams’ athleticism is the only thing that transitions to the NBA game.

“Everyone knows he’s always been a great athlete,” Saunders said, “but at this level you just don’t get by with athleticism.”

Saunders said the Timberwolves plan to bring Williams back for an individual workout — as well as former Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe. Both players worked out at last week’s pre-NBA combine in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Williams recorded a 42.5 inch vertical leap.

Williams’ position in the NBA is an interesting topic. While he was the Gophers’ starting power forward last season, Saunders said shooting guard may be a better fit for WIlliams’ 6 feet 7 inch, 200 pound frame.

Williams said he considers himself more of a small forward, but he noted the difference between the two and three positions is minimal.

Williams, who’s working out in California to prepare for the draft, said he has workouts planned with Detroit and Houston. He’s confident about his draft possibilities.

“With these couple workouts coming up here, hopefully somebody’s seen something that they like in me and hopefully I can sneak on a team somewhere,” he said.

CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore projects Williams to go No. 45 to the Portland Trail Blazers, while Mbakwe goes No. 60 to the Memphis Grizzlies in his latest mock draft.