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Alan Williams, NBL's professional rebounder

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The NBL's Dennis Rodman has arrived in Alan Williams (2:28)

SEM Phoenix import Alan Williams discusses the "science" of rebounding, and how he studied the games of legendary bigs like Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O'Neal and David Robinson. (2:28)

Alan Williams combines the size of a modern small ball five with the skillset and toughness of a low post force from the 1990's.

By textbook standards, the man they call 'Big Sauce' is an undersized centre, standing 6-foot-8 on the old scale, yet South East Melbourne Phoenix understood exactly what they were acquiring when they inked the 29-year-old in the offseason.

A professional rebounder.

"Rebounding is a science. It's a talent. It's a skill as much as being a 3-point shooter is. It takes time, it takes study and obviously the effort aspect is big," Williams told ESPN.

Williams isn't just a good rebounder, he's elite. During the 2016-17 NBA season with the Phoenix Suns, Williams averaged 6.2 boards in just 15 minutes per game across 47 appearances. That number equated to 14.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, which ranked No. 6 in the league among 355 players to see at least 500 minutes of court time.

"Rebounding came naturally. I've always had good hands, so I've been able to catch the ball. Sometimes you'll see me getting rebounds out of my area but I kind of think that when I step on a 94-foot court, the whole thing is my area," Williams explains.

"That's a matter of the tools that God gave me, the ability to see the flight of the ball and gauge where the ball will be to go and get it. At a young age I was able to do that and I was always on the court because teams needed that.

"Once you get the rebound, you put it back in and all of a sudden, you're getting double-doubles every night and that's your thing. That's what I've made my whole basketball career on. I go out on to the court every night believing I can get 10 rebounds for my team and when I get the 10 rebounds, 10 points come out of it. It sets a lasting impact, not only on the stat sheet, but in the actual realm of the game, it's significant."

Averaging 13.6 points and 7.3 rebounds to start the NBL season, Williams ranks second in the league for offensive rebound percentage (13.7) according to realgm.com. Williams and Chinese star Zhou Qi form a two-headed monster at the five position for the Phoenix, with the ever reliable Dane Pineau a remarkably consistent option and a luxury as a third string centre.

While rebounding can often be overlooked as an aspect of the game that comes down to pure size and effort, Williams eagerly describes the intricacies of how and why it has become a staple of his professional career.

"I tend to sit there and watch my teammates shoot so I can understand the flight of their basketball. If Kyle (Adnam) is shooting, or (Mitch) Creek is shooting, I know where the ball is going to bounce eight out of 10 times so I can put myself in a position early to go out and get that rebound.

"Understanding the science behind it is something my dad instilled in me from a really young age. I got the size from my family so I'm able to move people to places that benefits me, then at the end its effort, desire and heart to be able to go and take that rebound.

"I just think rebounding is such an integral part of the game of basketball. Without it, you can't win games, so I find myself on the court a lot because I can secure that rebound thanks to the tools I've been able to development over my career."

While most kids marvel at the bucket getting ways of the game's superstar talents, Williams remembers watching the glass cleaners, the classic bigs who feasted on the boards to impact the game in a major way.

"I actually watch that; I'm watching bigs and seeing who can rebound. Dennis Rodman early, his tenacity on the glass was something that really drew me to the game of basketball. When you look at the most dominant bigs, the rebound numbers were up there.

"You've got David Robinson who was getting quadruple-doubles with blocks and rebounds, Shaq, Dwight Howard. I'm watching these guys and obviously their stature is a little different to mine, but I still think it encompasses that science that I'm looking for. Dennis Rodman was 6'6" and watching his interviews when he talks about the ball going here and there, that's all about understanding how to rebound."

After working through some early teething problems with foul trouble, Williams admits the process of understanding how the NBL is officiated is a work in progress. Through eight games, he has fouled out just once despite mixing it up with bigs across the league in the paint.

"It's really what they told me it would be. It's really physical, you got guys out there fighting for their lives and it feels like that every time you step on the court.

"I think any time you come to a new place you need to manage officiating a bit differently and kind of understand what you can and can't get away with. I'm learning slowly but I'm not going to stop hitting so I'm looking forward to the challenge of being as physical as I can while playing within myself to help the team win."

Williams has entered the NBL as advertised. A force in the paint and particularly on the glass, he might not have the height to see eye-to-eye with his opponent on most game nights, but that is unlikely to slow him down. It never has.

"I never use my size as an excuse for not being able to produce. Seeing the way the game is changing, I don't know if it's working in my favour, but I just know that if I can consistently stick to the things I believe in, how I work, the things I try to target when I hit the court, I'll be able to play as long as I want to."