The classic forward of the 1980's, Reggie Williams was the right man at the right time for a Georgetown program poised to reach for championships. Over four years from 1983 through 1987, he would become one of the program's greatest stars.
The Williams legacy was born before he arrived in Washington in the fall of 1983. The star forward of a Baltimore Dunbar HS team that would send four of its players en route to the NBA and four more to major colleges, Williams was a consensus high school All-American and the top ranked recruit in his high school class. With offers nationwide, the 6-7 forward followed his former teammate David Wingate, who had joined the Hoyas a year earlier. The arrival of Williams sent a message that Georgetown finally had the forward talent to complement Patrick Ewing in the middle.
On almost any other team Williams would have assumed the role of the team's star. The fact that Williams didn't have to be the star of the 1983-84 team helped him grow and mature as a player. He started only nine games in 1983-84, but as a reserve Williams was able to see considerable on court time to showcase both his mid-range jumper and his quick drives inside, two traits ideal for the small forward role. As the season progressed, his numbers improved--the 8.4 per game average in Big East play might have understated the growing skill set Williams was building on the court.
It's safe to say that in most of these games, Williams' role was complementary. While he scored a season high 22 against Syracuse and 17 in the Big East semifinals versus St. John's, most games were between eight and 10 points a game in 15-20 minutes of work. Such was not the case on April 2, 1984, a game which not only elevated Georgetown to the national title but established Williams as a clutch player in the big game. Coming off a 1-7 effort in the semifinal versus Kentucky, Williams dominated Houston in the final, shooting 9 for 18 for 19 points, along with seven rebounds. While Patrick
Ewing (10 points, 9 boards) was named the MVP, it was Williams' able shooting and tenacious defense which proved decisive in the title game.
An early season injury kept Williams out of the first three games of the 1984-85 campaign, and after coming off the bench in the fourth game of the season, he settled into the starting lineup and never left, started the next 100 games of his career. In a season where Ewing was dominant, Williams' 50 percent shooting and 11.9 per game average were valuable assets for a Hoya team that was largely unstoppable in the regular season. He led the team in scoring eight times that year, with a season high of 25 against St. John's in the "Sweater Game" and 20 versus the Redmen in the NCAA
semifinal. Williams looked to continue the scoring touch early in the NCAA final versus Villanova, but turned his ankle late in the first half, limiting him to only ten points and a step slow on defense in a game where one extra shot or one late steal could have made all the difference.
For two seasons, Williams was the understudy, but by his junior year it was time for him to take the lead. Teaming with fellow Dunbar alumnus David Wingate, the two forwards combined to lead the Hoyas in scoring in 28 of 32 games. Williams scored in double figures in 31 of those games, with his Williams' best games coming in such numbers as a 30 point effort to help defeat #18 DePaul, 25 versus #10 St. John's, a 22 point, 14 rebound effort to defeat Villanova, and a 26 point, 12 rebound effort in a rematch with Villanova the following month. For his efforts,
Williams was named a first team All-Big East selection, leading his team with a 17.6 shooting average on 53% field shooting.
With the graduation of Michael Jackson, David Wingate, and Horace Broadnax and the transfer of center Grady Mateen, Georgetown returned only two starters and three upperclassmen for the 1986-87 season. For the Hoyas to maintain its standard of excellence, it was not enough for the younger players to grow into their roles. The team needed a leader, and Reggie Williams helped carry this unlikely team into one of its most memorable seasons ever.
It wasn't just the depth of Williams' skills-- he led the team in scoring 29 times and rebounding in 23. Williams helped transform a group of untested players into a formidable force in Big East and NCAA play, a team capable of one comeback after another; thus the nickname of "Reggie and the Miracles".
Williams' shooting touch was there at the outset: he averaged 28.8 points a game over the first six games, including a career high 39 versus Washburn (KS) University. His 26 points led the Hoyas past Arizona in an early pre-season clash, and 24 more in a win over UTEP. His play throughout the 1986-87 season remains among the more memorable performances by any Georgetown player.
Early in January, trailing at the half, Williams scored 31 to lead the Hoyas past Pitt. Trailing Syracuse much of the way at Capital Centre, Williams scored 30 to engineer an overtime win, 83-81, topped by Perry McDonald's turnaround jumper at the buzzer. Following a 34 point, 11 rebound effort versus Connecticut, the Hoyas rallied from 12 down to beat Pitt by 13, with 21 from Williams. In the season finale, the Hoyas swept past Providence 90-79 behind 24 from Williams to claim a share of the 1987 regular season title.
Williams was methodical in his pursuit of a third Big East title in four seasons, scoring 24 in the quarterfinal, 22 in the semifinal, and 25 in the final versus Syracuse. Named the Big East tournament MVP, he continued the steady shooting into NCAA play: 21 points versus Bucknell, 24 in a big comeback win over Ohio State, 34 to rally the Hoyas past Kansas, and 25 in the regional final loss to Providence. Even in defeat, the "Miracles" had produced a memorable 29-5 season, with a senior to lead them.
By season's end, Williams had set nine single season records, including points, rebounds, three pointers, minutes played, and scoring average. No less important was the way the team matured under his leadership; as he departed, names like Perry McDonald, Charles Smith, Jaren Jackson, and Mark Tillmon would carry Williams' quiet confidence into the seasons which followed.
A consensus All-Big East and All-America selection his senior season, Williams' NBA future looked bright, that is, until the draft came along. The fourth pick of the 1987 NBA draft, Williams was drafted by the hard-luck Los Angeles Clippers, which struggled to consecutive 60+ loss seasons in his first two seasons and largely obscured his talent there. Following trades to Sacramento and San Antonio, Williams found his best years over a six season run with the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets were a combined 44-120 in Williams' first two seasons there, but in 1991-92, Williams led the Nuggets with an 18.2 per game average, en route to playoff appearances in 1993-94 and 1994-95. He retired from the NBA in 1997 at the age of 32.
Reggie Williams will ultimately be remembered for a mark of excellence throughout his collegiate years that stands to this day. In his four years, Williams was a part of teams which won 122 games against only 19 defeats (.865), and a 56-5 record at home (.918). He is one of four Georgetown players to have scored more than 2,000 points in a season--had the three point shot been a statistic for more than one season in his career, he would have likely passed Patrick Ewing for second place on the all-time scoring list. No less impressive was his ability to contribute off the ball as well--he graduated as the school's
third all time leading rebounder, third in steals, and seventh in assists.
It's not enough to say Reggie Williams could do it all. He did it all and then some, and at the end of his four years he had made a claim for being one of the finest all-around athletes in Georgetown history.