The John R. Wooden Award midseason list of the top 25 basketball players for 2016 was released late Jan. 13. The award is an annual event wherein a panel of representatives from across America votes to determine the best players in both men’s and women’s college basketball. Damion Lee, shooting guard for the University of Louisville and former Drexel student, was on the midseason list. Lee is currently averaging 16.6 points per game and shooting nearly identical splits to his final year at Drexel, a reminder of what the Dragons are missing on the floor this season as they’ve slipped to a 3-12 record this season.
At Drexel, however, freshman sensation Terrell Allen and Rodney Williams are diverting eyes back to the Daskalakis Athletic Center. Through four Colonial Athletic Association games, Williams has taken his game to a new level.
Last year, despite missing a month due to an unfortunate foot injury, Williams managed to make third-team all-conference. This season, the all-conference accolades could very well be in line.
Williams started this season slow, scoring over 10 points just once in his first six outings and averaging a serviceable but underwhelming 8.5 points per game before suffering an ankle injury during the Dragons’ road loss to the University of South Carolina Dec. 15. Unlike last season’s injury, however, this one caused Williams to miss just one game.
In the five games before Thursday night’s contest against Hofstra University, Williams averaged 14.8 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game. He shot a combined 65.5 percent from the field against Elon University, the College of William & Mary and the College of Charleston.
This is the kind of basketball Drexel should be playing. With guard Ahmad Fields under the weather and Tavon Allen—despite an early-season showcase—still an inconsistent shooter at best, the Dragons might consider funneling the ball into the low post and giving Williams as much play as possible. With the graduation of Northeastern University’s Scott Eatherton after last season, Williams has a chance to be the most relevant man in the conference in his final two seasons.
Drexel hasn’t seen such a strong player since the spring of 2012, when Samme Givens, an inch shorter than Williams and notably less athletic, tore an equally strong CAA to shreds as the Dragons won 19 games in a row.
Of course, Givens had plenty of support. He was that team’s most valuable player, but he was surrounded with legendary talent in Chris Fouch, Frantz Massenet and Damion Lee.
Williams doesn’t have that kind of backup this season, but next year he might. Sammy Mojica has overcome a bumpy first few games and is starting to apply himself on the offensive end, and Rashann London’s shot has improved a lot from his freshman campaign. Next season, Fields should be healthy and Wake Forest University transfer Miles Overton will be ready to play. With another year of experience for Allen, Williams could see a very capable cast supporting him in his final year at Drexel. Seeing Williams succeed this season is such an encouraging sign for this team, which has struggled with offense since the graduations of Massenet and Fouch.
The end record of this year’s team won’t be pretty, and it’ll be tough to watch the Louisville Cardinals march into the NCAA tournament and inevitably do the damage that teams coached by Rich Pitino always do. However, based on current trends in Drexel’s men’s basketball, the near future could see them turn around and start tearing up the floor.