Reggie Williams slips stereotypes as easily as an overeager defender. He is not a guard; he is not a forward; he is not a center. He is a player, pure and complete, adept at every phase of the loveliest athletic art form, so quietly excellent for so long at Georgetown to command attention as the best ever at a Washington-area college.
That's best as in better than Patrick Ewing and Ralph Sampson, better than John Lucas and Sleepy Floyd, better than Len Bias, Albert King, Buck Williams and Kermit Washington. The best thing about the Hoyas this season is that they're flawed just enough to give their leader his due.
"You start with Reggie," Coach John Thompson said, "then you skip two notches and get to Perry (McDonald)."
This means that Williams does not play anywhere specific. Only everywhere. And splendidly. One moment he might be popping a three-pointer from beyond the free throw circle; the next he might be on the wing, touch-passing the ball down low to McDonald. Frequently, he slides that slender frame inside for some serious rump-bump and not only comes out alive but also with the rebound. Out of Ewing-length shadows, Williams now casts an enormous one of his own.
You should know that this is a single-person poll, with one limitation and a couple of prejudices. I am saying Williams is the best player ever at a local college, not the best the area has produced. Elgin Baylor, Adrian Dantley, Dave Bing and a half-dozen others who played elsewhere collegiately do not qualify for this exercise.
Also, I consider versatility the most important basketball virtue. The most valuable guys, those around whom coaches build teams, are centers and point guards, in that order. My favorites can shoot the ball and pass it, bring it upcourt under pressure, go chase it on defense and snatch it off the glass. All that makes Williams the class of area collegians.
It also helped that he was graceful and productive at one of those moments when games get riveting. As a freshman, with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes, he was the preeminent player in the 1984 NCAA championship game. He had nine more points than Ewing and four more than Akeem Olajuwon--just two fewer rebounds than each of them.
Still, most of the attention got deflected elsewhere, to Thompson and Ewing, even to Freddie Brown, for winning an NCAA title after throwing one away two years before. Most of his Georgetown life has been like that, as a featured backup to somebody more compelling. With his full career in perspective, nobody has been better in more ways.
At times, Williams has played Ewing's position. At times, Williams has played Lucas' position. At times, Williams has played Bias' position. In an exceptionally strong program, one that nearly made the NCAA semifinals two years before Ewing arrived, Williams will end his Georgetown days as no worse than:
The third all-time scorer.
The third all-time rebounder.
The sixth all-time playmaker.
The fifth all-time ball stealer.
He's the one player on my all-time, all-area team who could replace each of his teammates and play their positions better than they could his. The others are: Ewing, Lucas, Bias and David Robinson. Think about that. Consider how rich the area has been since Lefty Driesell arrived at Maryland, since Thompson arrived at Georgetown, since Terry Holland arrived at Virginia, since Robinson began sprouting at Navy.
Ewing and Lucas were the top choices of entire NBA drafts. Robinson may also be. Bias was the second pick last year. Also, the troops off my bench almost surely would whip the first-teamers in practice now and then: Sampson and Washington, King and Buck Williams, Brad Davis, Floyd, Len Elmore, Tom McMillen and--strictly for three-pointers--Bob Tallent.
As a soloist this season for a 17-4 team, Williams has 220 more points than the second-leading Georgetown scorer, 67 more rebounds than any other Hoya, 11 more steals and 127 more minutes played. He is second in blocked shots and third in assists. His most impressive number may be his average of slightly less than 24 points on slightly more than 17 shots.
"Even in games like this," said Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt, referring to an easy victory over Boston College Monday night at Capital Centre, "he shows you something Larry Bird-scary. Like that touch pass (from the wing to an open teammate on the base line).
"He keeps building his game. Subtle things now, like court awareness. Things that make Bird great. He's now as dangerous without the ball as with it. He influences games in so many ways: passing, shooting, defense (he plays the point on the Hoyas' full-court press), rebounding. And also his head."
Georgetown is 110-18 with Williams, all the evidence Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry needed to declare: "In most games, he does what you have to do to win." Granted, the Hoyas have feasted on soft teams this season. But they have beaten DePaul, Syracuse and St. John's at home and Pittsburgh on the road.
With everybody in the gym knowing Williams will take the shot that decides tense games, he still has managed to wiggle free to do just that. And to beat American University and De Paul.
"Body and soul," Thompson says.
Well, the body certainly is more than it seems. The shooter's delicate hands are obvious, as are the passer's eyes and mind. But clarinets are thicker than his legs. He does have equal muscle distribution, one on each arm.
Few in the NBA are quite sure about his professional future. One scouting service lists Williams as the top small-forward prospect and second among all the shooting guards. He seems about 1,200 milk shakes away from a prolonged front-court career; doubts about his ball handling worry some NBA experts, one of whom insists he will not be among the top 10 draftees.
"It was like that with Sleepy," said Thompson of his former sharpshooter who made the NBA all-star team this season. "He didn't have a pro body, either, according to all those guys who make the draft into a beauty contest (and was the 13th pick in the 1982 draft). But he can flat-out play." Same with Williams. But he's accustomed to delayed appreciation.