Sunday, January 28, 2007

Remembering Shelden Williams

Shel-Shel prepares to collect rent versus Miami (FL), 2/19/06.

Six-nine-and-a-senior, from Forest Park, Oklahoma... number twenty-three... Sheeeeeeldeeeen Wiiiiiiiliams!
I cut today's game preview a little short because I wanted to make special note that today the Duke Blue Devils will retire #23 in honor of two-time Defensive Player of the Year Shelden Williams. The man known as the Landlord will be the 12th men's basketball player to receive such an honor, and the first since Jason Williams in 2003. In his four years the Blue Devils went 114-22, including a Final Four appearance in 2004. He left Duke as the team's all time leader in career blocks and career rebounds, and his 111 blocks in 2005 is the most in a season for a Blue Devil. In his senior season, Shelden recorded just the third triple double in Duke men's basketball history, with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks- the first of the three triple doubles to include blocks.

Shelden's play was perhaps overshadowed by the flashier offensive production by his teammate, JJ Redick, whose number will also be retired next week. This is unfair, as Shelden's offense proved to be even more crucial than Redick's in close games- especially in his senior season. Connecticut's comeback in the 2004 Final Four began when Williams left the court due to foul trouble. Duke fell to Georgetown in 2006 even though Redick scored 41 points, in part because Williams was limited to just four points.

But it is even more unfair to identify Williams' play by how Duke faired when he struggled. Fans should remember his tenacity in the paint, and the ability to take over games defensively.
One of the most interesting points I remember the soft-spoken Williams making is that he is not the type of shot-blocker who swats floaters into the stands with intensity. He could do that, mind you- but that sort of thing isn't productive, since the other team just gets the ball back. Shelden said in an interview that he looks for opportunities when he can get the ball to his teammates with a block. Therefore while overall Duke may be more proficient with the blocked-shot this season, what they miss is Williams' ability to end possessions.

Williams was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the fifth overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. In his rookie season, he has started 27 of the Hawks' 42 games, and has put up rates of 5.8 ppg and 4.3 rpg. Shelden is backing up former Tar Heel Marvin Williams, but has had a few highlights such as a 12 point, 7 rebound game in an upset win over the Pistons a few weeks ago, and a season high 20 points in a loss to Detroit back in November.

His fledgling NBA career should not obscure the memories created at Duke, however. Feel free to leave your favorite Shelden memories in the comments. And as always, remember to
Pay Your Rent!
Pay Your Rent!
Pay Your Rent!

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