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Hall of Fame analytics: Fordham Prep class pushes for Buck Williams

New Jersey Nets v Washington Bullets Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

What? Buck Williams isn’t in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame? That’s what a bunch of Fordham Prep students asked once they looked into the stats and craft of the Nets great who’s been out of the game longer than any of them have been alive.

Now, they and Williams are awaiting word on whether he’ll take the first step to gain entry to the Hall when 10 North American finalists will be announced. That happens on February 18, during All-Star Weekend. Stefan Bondy of the Daily News outlined just how the club went about its work.

The Prep students took on the assignment of vouching for Williams credentials as part of an assignment given their Sports Analytics Club, one of a number of such clubs around the country that are linked to the NBA’s appreciation for STEM, science, technology, engineering and math.

Other clubs have vouched for their local heroes. Marvin Webster was enshrined in the NCAA’s Hall based in part on work by the SAC program’s club in Baltimore and a club in the Virginia tidewater pushed for Ben Wallace’s entry in the Springfield Museum, as Bondy wrote.

In the New York case, students compared Williams career with those of seven other players who are already in the Hall: Chris Webber, Jack Sikma, Vlade Divac, Ralph Sampson, Walt Bellamy, Bob Lanier and Nate Thurmond. The result was a 26-page brief on why Williams should join that illustrious company that focused on the less flashy stats like defensive win percentage.

“We found out a lot of people don’t know about Buck Williams’ impact because he’s not a flashy player,” Shane Daughtry, one of the Prep students, told Bondy. “So we kind of had to be that voice for him to make himself known. A lot of his impact was on the defensive side of the ball. So we used different things like defensive win shares to show his impact on the team.”

Williams, hardly a disinterested party, was wowed by what the kids had put together.

“I never thought about this until these kids did a statistical analysis of my career,” he said. “I never sat and thought about these things, and then they presented it to me, and I’m like, ‘Wow.’”

The selection of Ben Wallace, a four-time Defensive Player of the Year, is likely to help Williams chances. Defense matters more now in the selection process. One particularly telling stat included in the portfolio: Williams finished his career 17th all-time in rebounds. Every player ahead of him on the list is already in the Hall. He also scored more than 17,000 points, got to two NBA Finals with the Blazers, won the Rookie of the Year with New Jersey and had his No. 52 retired and hung in the rafters at Barclays Center.

In talking to Bondy, Williams also mentioned that he’d like to enter the Hall as a Net ... although as the Daily News reporter noted, players don’t enter Springfield as members of a team unlike Cooperstown, the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“No question (I’d go into the Hall of Fame as a Net). That’s where it all started,” Williams said. “We did some good things in New Jersey. They’ve recognized me and now they’re inviting me back to the arena and being part of the Nets family. I like what the owner is doing there, he’s trying to win a championship. I’m always going to consider myself a Net no matter what happened in Portland. We won a lot of games, I had fun up there, had some great teammates. But New Jersey would be the team.”