From This Point Forward
Fourteen Louisville Cardinals, all in a row, stand as the national anthem plays. Thirteen are minding the words of
A handful of other college forwards can do this -- most notably, Tennessee's
The last line of Williams's pregame monologue is a request for all his dead relatives -- his father,
One of Williams's favorite throwbacks was a
The true forebear of the point forward position, though, was far less famous than Magic. Mitchell & Ness never created a throwback for him, and Williams never saw him play. But he was cutting down the nets in the NBA the year before Magic even joined the Lakers, helping bring the one and only major league title to T-Will's hometown.
Johnson is waiting to talk to his son,
John Johnson's role as a point forward began as an experiment in December 1977, after the Sonics lost 17 of their first 22 games and coach
The Sonics beat the Celtics that night and won 42 of their final 60 games, reaching the NBA Finals before losing in seven to the Washington Bullets. Johnson averaged 2.7 assists that season; it wasn't until the following year that he truly became a point forward, leading Seattle in assists at 4.4 per game, while Williams and Dennis Johnson upped their scoring. They finished 52-30 and, in a rematch with the Bullets, won the finals in five games.
Recognition of JJ for pioneering the point forward position would have to wait, though. Seven years after Wilkens's experiment,
(The etymology of point forward remains a question. Former Bucks star
John Johnson, though, is adamant that Wilkens not only invented the position but also called it a point forward. "Lenny coined that phrase," John insists.
There is no debate, at least, that Nelson is the coach most associated with using point forwards; they've been staples of his teams in Milwaukee, Dallas and Golden State, where he now deploys 6' 8"
NBA scouts have had four years to catch on to T-Will, whose stock has only improved with age. He has jumped from a probable second-round pick at the season's outset to a likely first-rounder now. But Williams feels that his low point totals on a balanced team -- forward
What else explains why the best player on the team with the best record in the nation's best conference isn't expected to be a first-team All-America? "Every day I hear someone on TV say, 'It's not about points.' But then, when they're talking about the premier players, it is about points," Williams says. "If I made a stat sheet and took off everyone's names -- to take out the hype [factor] -- and just looked at assists, assist-to-turnover ratio, rebounds per minute, steals, blocks and how many points you created for others, then guys who you thought were premier players would be somewhere in the middle of the pack."
During Senior Night at Freedom Hall on March 4, Williams gave a demonstration of what he's talking about with 14 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in a 95-78 win over Seton Hall. "When we look at film on the day after a game," Pitino says, "he wants me to say, 'T-Will did a great job of making his teammates better.' He wants that kind of approval badly. I think that came from him not getting it all of the time growing up."
Williams's father was murdered when he was six; Terrence alternated between living with his mother,
But Williams has come to know better in four years at Louisville, heeding Pitino's advice to imagine that he's always doing commercials on himself in public. Williams is no longer a Mean Guy but rather a bounding mass of infectiously positive energy, intent on beautifying the college basketball landscape and making the most of his final NCAA tournament. During the Senior Night festivities Louisville featured him in an actual commercial -- a spoof of Guitar Hero's