Howard senior Ron Williamson is not the most talkative guy, so his teammates and coaches have learned to watch more than listen while trying to figure out what he's up to.
If he's hopping up and down, he might be due for a big night, like the times he scored 41 points against Georgetown two seasons ago and 41 again against Hampton last season. If his shoulders are sagged and he's motionless, he's struggling to find a rhythm, and he might be in for a rougher time, like his last game, scoring four points against American on Dec. 9.
"You really have to pay attention to his body language," Howard Coach Frankie Allen said.
When the Bison face Georgetown tonight at MCI Center, Williamson will be the program's lone tie remaining to former coach Kirk Saulny, who was fired in January 2000 for violating school and NCAA rules. Howard's other senior, guard Jonathan Stokes, left the team last week.
"It's kind of sad, because he's the guy who recruited me," Williamson said of Saulny. "To be honest, when I got here, there were so many guards, I was leery about my playing time."
That changed shortly after Allen was hired in May 2000.
"We really didn't have a summer program, and I had only been here less than a month when everybody left," Allen said. "So we watched a lot of tape. I saw this one game of his, against Delaware State, and I was like, 'Wow, this kid can really play.' "
A point guard in high school and his freshman season at Howard, the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Williamson blossomed into one of the MEAC's best shooting guards. He made 42 percent of his three-point attempts last season and has learned to come off screens effectively for a mid-range jumper from about 15 feet. But when the shots are not falling, he can be prone to lulls.
"I need to get to the foul line more," said Williamson, who has made 90 percent of his free throws this season but averages less than four attempts per game. "When I start out the game, I'm constantly running off screens and trying to make things happen. But if my shot doesn't go from the start, I find myself standing around, watching. If I'm aggressive, good things will happen, or at least open things up for my teammates."
The offense is geared toward versatile senior forward Kyle Williams, who is capable of playing with his front or back to the basket as well as shooting from outside. Williamson averages 17.7 points despite being the second or even third option, after an entry pass to the post.
But "when Ron starts bouncing around, you know you have to get him the rock, set him screens, because he's not going to miss," said Aki Thomas, the Bison's center last season. "He's not a streak shooter, but when he's on, he is really on."
Whether the shots are falling or not, Williamson remains reserved. Thomas and Williams found it difficult to get to know him when they transferred from Colorado in 2000.
"I didn't really speak to him for about a year, to be honest," Williams said. "One day in the spring, we're playing pickup, and I showed him a way to come around a screen again if the pass isn't there the first time. Two plays later, he does it to me, and all he does is give me a little smile. That's when we started talking. After that, we were cool."