The Blue Zone will be running a summer series bringing you the latest on some of Duke basketball’s former stars. This week, The Blue Zone takes a look at Shelden Williams.
Every Duke fan remembers Shelden Williams' four years in Durham, where the burly forward made an indelible mark on the Blue Devil faithful by playing four productive years which left him the school's all-time leader in both rebounds and blocks.
As a freshman Williams was immediately an impact rotation player. The 6-foot-9 big man from Oklahoma City started 23 of 33 games his first season at Duke, averaging 8.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Williams really emerged as a force during his junior season, where 'The Landlord' averaged a double-double for the first time in his collegiate career, pouring in 15.5 points and snaring 11.2 boards while changing the game defensively by blocking 3.7 shots per game. Williams' banner year was headlined by he and fellow junior J.J. Redick bringing the Blue Devils to the Final Four, where they were defeated by a UConn team that featured five future NBA talents in Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong.
A dominant senior season in which Williams averaged a career-high 18.8 points to go with his 10.7 rebounds and 3.8 blocked shots put him squarely on the radar of NBA teams as a lottery pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. The Atlanta Hawks selected Williams with the fifth pick in that draft, one which was littered with lottery busts, including Armstrong, Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, LSU's Tyrus Thomas, Bradley's Patrick O'Brien and Senegalese forward Saer Sene.
Williams' rookie season in Atlanta was arguably his best in the NBA. Starting 31 of 81 games, Williams averaged a career-best 5.5 points to go with 5.4 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per game. Halfway through his sophomore season Williams was on the move, being traded to the Sacramento Kings for guard Mike Bibby. In the midst of his third season in the NBA Williams was again dealt, this time to the Minnesota Timberwolves for former North Carolina guard Rashad McCants.
Failing to impress his new employers, Williams was granted free agency after the 2008-09 season. After another disappointing year, this time with the Boston Celtics, Williams finally found relevancy once again with the Denver Nuggets. Williams started 32 of 42 games with the Nuggets, producing his best numbers since his rookie season before he was traded for the third time in his career, this time joining Carmelo Anthony in becoming a New York Knick. Williams started six more games with the Knicks before falling out of the rotation in the playoffs.
Williams' final NBA season was with the New Jersey Nets last year. Williams as productive as he'd been his entire career, scoring 4.6 points and grabbing 6.0 rebounds. Despite his strong rebounding with the Nets, Williams failed to draw interest as a free agent, and thus took his talents to Europe for the first time in his career.
Williams signed with Elan Chalon in France, where he's been functioning as the team's starting center. Though there were rumors in December that Williams was going to be bought out by Chalon in order to join Fenerbahce Ulker in Turkey, no such transaction was ever made. In 45 games with Chalon, Williams is averaging 12.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. Williams is currently second in the Euroleague in both total rebounding and offensive rebounding.
Williams will have only just turned 30 when opening day in the NBA rolls around next season, leaving the door firmly open for a return to the NBA. With teams always needing size and rebounding, Williams' success overseas could make him an attractive, cost-effective target for NBA teams looking to augment their rosters for the 2013-14 season.
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