Thompson doesn't make it easy. Either you give up, or you dig deep within and somehow do what you went to Georgetown to do. There is no spoiling of athletes. Arguments have and will be made against Thompson's methods, but nearly all his four-year players have left Georgetown with degrees. So far, none has ended up in drug rehabilitation.
"I needed somebody outside my family to tell me I could do it," says Williams. " Coach Thompson and Miss Fenlon [Mary, the academic coordinator] did that for me. By my sophomore year I knew I could handle the work. But it was never, ever easy."
The one thing Williams has not gained at Georgetown is a lot of weight. "Don't look at the body and miss the player," warns Thompson. Williams eschews weight training—"Who has time?" he protests—and his thin frame could be a liability. When you can shoot and rebound like Williams, smart opponents want to push you out of range. Especially if you weigh 190 pounds.
"The book on Reggie was to try to physical him, get his mind off the game, early on in his career," says Gavitt. "I'm not sure you can do that anymore."
People still try. Against St. John's on Feb. 2, Redmen forward Willie Glass threw Williams around and admitted it afterward. Center Marco Baldi relentlessly banged Reggie off the court with his backside. Once, the Redmen left Williams crumpled in a heap under the St. John's basket. He twisted a knee. But he didn't come out of the game. Later, toward crunch time, when guard Mark Jackson tried to body block Reggie out of a shot, he retaliated with a swift forearm.
"Reggie has more patience. He knows he's going to be guarded by the hatchet man—that's time-honored tradition," says Thompson. "But Reggie will also tell you, 'This far, and no farther.' "
Earlier this season, when the Hoya freshmen and sophomores had caused Thompson to lose his own temper in practice, he was visited by Williams, who thought the coach was being too hard on the youngsters. "He told me he thought they were trying to do the right things," says Thompson. "Reggie has great compassion, too. He's prepared for what's out there. He's ready to show what he can do."
"I don't care if he never makes a dime," says Gloria Williams. "He'll have a good life. I believe that."
On Feb. 7, against Villanova at the Cap Centre, Williams fouled out with 2:31 to play, with Georgetown leading by three. The young Hoyas looked at one another, dug deep, and kept Villanova at bay, with Williams coaching as furiously as Thompson on the bench. The younger Hoyas found they could play without Reggie, after all.
So Georgetown basketball will continue. The chant of "Reg-gie" will also continue. And somewhere down the road a few people will stop and marvel at the days when they watched a tough young man named Reggie Williams play the game as it was meant to be played. He played to win. John Thompson will wonder why they don't make them like that anymore.