Senior forward Gideon George arrived on BYU’s campus a few years ago from New Mexico Junior College. 

During his time in Provo, George displayed his athleticism, helped the Cougars reach the NCAA Tournament, collected thousands of pairs of shoes — including 8,000 in his latest shoe drive — for people in his native Nigeria, started his own business (The George Helping Hands Foundation), and got married. 

“Just be grateful for every day. Every day has brought something that I’ve learned and that has helped me grow as a person and a player that I’ll take toward my next step in life.” — BYU guard Rudi Williams

Senior guard Rudi Williams arrived on BYU’s campus last summer as a senior graduate transfer after stops at three previous schools. In his only season as a Cougar, and in his final year of eligibility, he showed uncommon leadership on a young team, which included accepting his role coming off the bench. 

Both George and Williams will be honored at the Marriott Center for Senior Night on Saturday (8 p.m., MST, ESPNU) when the Cougars host San Francisco. 

This hasn’t been the kind of campaign they were hoping for, to be sure, but that doesn’t detract from their overall BYU experience. 

This season, George has averaged 10.7 points and six rebounds per game, while Williams has averaged 12.4 points and 2.7 assists per game.

The impact George and Williams have made on the program transcends what they produced on the court. 

“Gideon has been incredible here. He’s been an every-day guy in terms of him coming in and trying to give energy,” said coach Mark Pope. “It’s staggering to think about how he’s grown as a basketball player least of all.

“What he’s done as a person and how his life has changed as a human being is incredible, from the shoe drive, to starting his own business in Nigeria, which is going great right now, to getting married to being a force on some tremendous, top-25 teams here to touching people in the community. He’s been really special.”

George tested the NBA draft waters last spring before opting to return for his senior season.

“It was really fun. I was blessed to be there,” he said. “Being in an NBA environment and working out and seeing the process was really good. It helped me.”

This season, he scored a season-high 21 points in wins against Western Oregon and Dayton. He poured in a career-high 27 points against Northern Iowa in an NIT victory last season. 

In his first career start during the 2020-21 season, George scored 19 points and collected 13 rebounds — outrebounding Portland by himself. The Pilots had 12 rebounds that night. 

What stands out to George about his time in Provo? 

“I met my wife here at BYU. I’ve come across so many great people here at BYU,” he said. “Just being here and seeing how people care and they embrace you and love you. I’ve experienced that here at BYU.”

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George married his wife, a Utah Valley University student, during the season. 

When asked how he met his wife, George said, “It’s a funny story.”

George explained that she came to a Midnight Madness event, then he sent her a DM on her Instagram account. 

“It took her a year to reply,” George said, adding, “I don’t think I care to know why.”

As for Williams, he began the season as a starter after transferring from Coastal Carolina. But nine games into the season, Pope opted to start freshman Dallin Hall the starting point guard, relegating Williams to the bench. 

But Williams embraced his role. 

“Rudi, in his one year here, I’ll talk about Rudi for the next 20 years as a coach because he’s done something really remarkable here. Clearly, we haven’t enjoyed the results that we hoped for,” Pope said. “But his willingness to make this about the team first, his willingness to bring joy to all these guys, his willingness to be a mentor to a young guy that he’s competing with for minutes, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like it.

“He’s been really special that way,” Pope continued. “His growth has been incredible. We brought him in and put him in a position that he had never been in in his career and asked him to do things differently than he’s ever done in his career. He’s been really special.”

His season highlights include scoring 26 points off the bench in wins over Creighton and Utah. In January, he scored a season-high 28 points in a loss at San Francisco. He’s one of three players in program history to score 25 or more points off the bench three times in a single season. 

Williams, a native of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, appreciates everything he’s learned at BYU. 

“Just be grateful for every day. Every day has brought something that I’ve learned and that has helped me grow as a person and a player that I’ll take toward my next step in life,” he said. “I’m truly grateful for that. I’ve learned how to become a better film-watcher, a better teammate, a better friend, a better listener. Day-to-day stuff.”

Pope said Williams provided some much-needed stability for his team. 

“There’s so much new. Everybody’s new. Either new to the program or new to a position. We had nobody on this team that was coming in to resume a role that they’d had before. Rudi’s been incredibly stabilizing for our guys,” Pope said. “And he’s also been great about bringing guys together.

“He’s going to spend just as much time with a part-time manager, making him feel great about his life, as he is with the best guy on the team or a media member or anybody. He’s just a beautiful human being. We believe we still have some special things left to do this season and he has really special things ahead of him with his life.”

No, the Cougars didn’t have the kind of success that Williams and George wanted in their senior season. 

“That was not what I expected when I committed. But things don’t always go the way they’re supposed to,” Williams said. “That’s kind of been my life. It’s helped me in a way because it’s helped me get to where I’m at right now. I’m truly grateful for it … You can never get too high or too low. There have been (difficult times) and crazy bright moments in the season.”

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George said this season didn’t meet what he had expected.

Cougars on the air

San Francisco (17-12, 6-8)
at BYU (16-14, 6-9) 
Saturday, 8 p.m. MST
Marriott Center
Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM

“It’s far from my expectation. But sometimes you get all these huge expectations for yourself and it doesn’t go the right way sometimes,” he said. “You’ve still got to find a way to get better no matter what. Whatever the situation, you have to find a way to get better. It’s not what I planned before the season and the goals we had for ourselves as a team. We just keep going and get better every day.”

Pope is glad for the opportunity to have coached George and Williams. 

“Super blessed to have these two guys here at BYU, representing BYU,” he said. “What’s really exciting is their impact on the locker room and off the court has been bigger than their impact on the court. Grateful for those guys.”

BYU Cougars guard Rudi Williams reacts as BYU leads Gonzaga at the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.
BYU guard Rudi Williams reacts during game against Gonzaga at the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
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