Arizona basketball: See ya in the NBA, Derrick

Williams announces plan to hire an agent, declares for June draft
2011-04-14T14:00:00Z 2014-07-24T10:14:02Z Arizona basketball: See ya in the NBA, DerrickBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 14, 2011 2:00 pm  • 

You have to go back nearly two years, to when Derrick Williams was an unheralded recruit filling out Sean Miller's first Arizona Wildcat roster, to figure any of this was a surprise.

By Wednesday, when Williams announced he was ending his college career by entering the NBA draft and signing with an agent, there was no real drama.

Just a few tears on his part after enjoying the best two years of his life, according to Williams' Twitter account, and a lot of congratulations from those around him.

Williams, after all, was as popular in the locker room for his easygoing personality as for the skills that have made him a consensus top-five pick in the June NBA draft - the kind of lofty position, common NBA draft wisdom says, where you simply have to leave school.

As a top-five pick - possibly even No. 1 overall - Williams will earn a guaranteed deal of between $7 million and $11 million over two years.

He can also sign a shoe contract worth up to seven figures, even if there is an NBA lockout next season.

"He has a chance to be a top-five pick? I mean, what else is there to do?" UA forward Kevin Parrom said. "It's a great opportunity for him and his family, and I'm happy for him. He's a great kid, a great player, and guys like that usually succeed in the NBA."

UA coach Sean Miller said in a statement that Wednesday was a "great day for Derrick Williams and Arizona basketball," and assistant coach James Whitford was equally enthusiastic.

"We're just really happy for him," Whitford said. "He made a good decision, and the thing I give him great credit for is he did it the right way. He loved Arizona but he really thought about it. He weighed the pros and cons and made a mature, responsible decision based on all the facts in front of him. And, quite frankly, it was a good decision. We're 110 percent behind him."

Williams declined comment when approached at McKale Center on Wednesday. But his Twitter account hinted that his sudden rise while posting one of the best single seasons in UA basketball history this year made him think about the decision.

He was not, as many UA players before him were, a player who arrived with a firm agenda to play a year or two for the Wildcats, then turn pro.

"I don't think anybody thought I would only be here for 2 years, not even me," Williams' Twitter page said. "I hope I left y'all with memories that will last forever!"

No doubt Williams left a few, swatting away Washington's last-ditch shot with his broken pinky during the UA's Feb. 19 "white-out" victory, and putting together a personal NCAA tournament highlight reel that included a blocked shot in the final seconds against Memphis, a three-point play to beat Texas, and a superlative first half against Duke in the Sweet 16.

Williams led the Wildcats in scoring this season and finished second in the Pac-10 with an average of 19.5 a game, while he was fourth in the conference in rebounding at 8.3.

Over his two-year career, he totaled 1,227 career points, which ranks 27th on the UA career list and was the most points ever scored by a Wildcat in his first two seasons.

But Williams, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, was known as much for his offensive efficiency and athleticism as anything else.

He was the league's leading three-point shooter (56.8 percent) and blew away the UA's single-season record for free throws (247) and free throws attempted (331) with his uncanny ability to pick up fouls and get to the free-throw line.

"Derrick is a special player and rightfully should be considered to be one of the all-time great Wildcats," Miller said. "As good of a player as he is, he is an even better person."

Williams' sophomore season also, of course, elevated him on the NBA mock draft boards.

Jonathan Givony, publisher of Draft Express, has Williams going No. 2 and said he is "at worst" the No. 4 pick. Givony said only Duke's Kyrie Irving and North Carolina's Harrison Barnes could be picked ahead of him.

"It's not a big surprise but I'm sure it was a tough decision for him," Givony said. "I've been following him on Twitter all year and reading his comments. You could see it was a tough decision for him, even though for most guys, it wouldn't be tough - it's kind of a no-brainer. It's such a risky move to go back to school. You risk long-term injury, and insurance won't cover you unless it's career-ending."

Williams said in a UA statement that he gave the decision careful consideration, with the support of his family and Miller, before reaching a conclusion.

He repeatedly thanked UA fans via Twitter - "YOU ALL MEAN SO MUCH TO ME," he posted - and did so in the UA statement, too.

"I have enjoyed my two years at Arizona, both on and off the court," Williams said. "I want to thank my teammates, who are like brothers to me, my coaches, and all Wildcat fans for making my experience an unforgettable one."

In some ways Williams will remain a member of the team.

He will continue working out with the Wildcats this spring and will remain enrolled in classes, both to keep the UA from being penalized in Academic Progress Ratings and putting himself in line to eventually keep pursuing a college degree.

Added Williams in his UA statement: "I am a Wildcat for life."

 

UA'S EARLY DEPARTURES for NBA draft

Players, including Derrick Williams, who declared for the draft early.

* Returned to the UA and finished eligibility

• Brian Williams (1991)

• Mike Bibby (1998)

• Gilbert Arenas (2001)

• Jason Gardner (2001)*

• Richard Jefferson (2001)

• Michael Wright (2001)

• Andre Iguodala (2004)

• Chris Rodgers (2005)*

• Mustafa Shakur (2006)*

• Marcus Williams (2007)

• Jerryd Bayless (2008)

• Chase Budinger (2008 and 2009)

• Jordan Hill (2009)

• Derrick Williams (2011)

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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