Arizona Basketball: Just not like him

Multifaceted ability makes Williams the big man on campus
2011-02-12T00:00:00Z 2014-07-24T09:57:52Z Arizona Basketball: Just not like himBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 12, 2011 12:00 am  • 

In true CPA style, former Arizona basketball standout Bob Elliott eyed the numbers, compared the sizes and the statistics, then ran it all through a filter to see exactly which Arizona Wildcat best compares to stunningly versatile sophomore Derrick Williams.

The answer? Him.

For "guys his size, who average 16 to 18 points a game with 7 to 9 rebounds," Elliott said, "you look at the numbers - and I'm an accountant. It's just Derrick and me."

In fact, when Williams first opened eyes on the collegiate level by shooting 21 free throws in a 2009 Maui Invitational game, he broke the school record of 20 held by Elliott and Jerryd Bayless.

Yet even Elliott knows that, despite having the second-best career scoring and rebounding numbers in Arizona basketball history, even he doesn't really compare to Williams.

Nobody does.

Elliott scored 2,125 points and collected 1,083 rebounds during a UA career from 1973 to 1977, playing anywhere from small forward to center. Yet while he had a similar size to Williams, could beat players off the dribble and shoot from all over the floor, Elliott says he had a bigger chest than Williams but could not elevate like Williams does.

"Being (nicknamed) Big Bird had nothing to do with my leaping," Elliott said, chuckling.

"There's nobody I would say is a comparison to Derrick. They either don't have the size or the scoring or the rebounding or the ambidextrous offense."

Even the overwhelmingly successful Lute Olson era didn't produce a single player who matches Williams' size and skill set.

Sean Rooks? Not the same offensive range. Chris Mills? Physical around the hoop but more of a true small forward. Michael Wright? Didn't often leave the basket area. Joe Blair? Anthony Cook? Brian Williams? Loren Woods?

None of them, not quite. Even Olson himself says so.

"It's not really very easy to compare him with anyone," Olson said. "With his size, he's probably a little bit like Bennett Davison was in terms of quickness, both up and down the court and quickness to the ball. But he's having to play quite a bit inside. I don't think that's going to be his natural position, and if they lay off him, why, he's the best three-point shooter on the team, and that's unusual for somebody inside."

Williams' game is so unique that Olson's comparisons not only include Davison, the bouncy power forward for the 1997 national champions, but also Ivan Radenovic (for his inside-outside game), Hassan Adams (for his leaping), Andre Iguodala (for his perimeter skills) and maybe even Channing Frye (for three-point shooting skills Olson didn't often deploy in his system).

"He has the quickness off the floor, I think, of a Hassan Adams type of player," Olson said. "Derrick is so quick to the ball and he's such a great jumper. A lot of times he's up there with the shot, and the next thing you know, he's back up there with the tip in."

Longtime UA sports publicist Tom Duddleston suggested Jud Buechler could be in the conversation, because of his ability to shoot with range and rebound, as well as Rooks, Brian Williams, Mills and Cook for various reasons.

Elliott, meanwhile, reached for another comparison all the way to Tony Dungy.

Tony Dungy?

Turns out, the former NFL coach was a four-sport star at a rival Michigan high school of Elliott's.

Williams' "high post, off-the-dribble footwork reminds me of Dungy, the way he faces up and kind of gets low, and you don't know if he's going left or right," Elliott said. "His footwork reminds me of how Tony played in high school."

Current Arizona coach Sean Miller says he doesn't know where Williams might fit in among the past UA greats and won't even pin a position on him, even though Williams has technically been playing center with a power forward body, and has the potential to play small forward in the NBA.

"He's a forward, however you want to call it," Miller said. "With the forward, it's just versatility. He's a great example of that, whether it be his offensive or defensive rebounding, the way he scores both inside and out, and his ability to run in transition. All of those things make him an elite forward."

Elliott says it's fun to watch Williams today, fun to see a "deer-in-the-headlights" look on the faces of defenders stuck with him one-on-one, even though it appears increasingly likely Williams won't be in front of the McKale Center crowds very long.

Williams' skilled uniqueness has helped move him up to No. 2 on NBADraft.net's 2011 Mock NBA Draft, and No. 5 on the Draft Express board, territory that suggests his college days are numbered.

So for the short time remaining, Elliott and Arizona Wildcat fans may not need to bother figuring out exactly where Williams fits in.

They can just sit back and enjoy the show.

"He's a special person, without a doubt," Elliott said. "Derrick is a special person. He's been given some God-given talent."

A TALL ORDER TO FIND ANYONE MORE TALENTED

Here are five big men who have made significant statistical impacts for the Arizona Wildcats and (at least somewhat) can compare with Derrick Williams:

Al Fleming

• 6-7, 215

• Years at UA: 1972-76

• Big stat: 1,190 career rebounds, still most in UA history.

• Known for: Relentless rebounding and a solid mid-range jump shot

• Post UA: Drafted by Phoenix Suns but played with Seattle and overseas. Died in 2003 of kidney cancer at age 49.

Bob Elliott

• 6-9, 230

• Years at UA: 1973-77

• Big stat: 2,125 career points

• Known for: Prolific scoring and rebounding

• Post-UA: Played for New Jersey Nets and in Europe. Now an accountant in Tucson.

Brian Williams

• 6-11, 260

• Years at UA: 1989-91

• Big stat: .619 field goal percentage in 1990-91

• Known for: Supreme athleticism for size but questionable passion for basketball.

• Post-UA: First-round pick of the Orlando Magic, played 8 years in NBA. Disappeared during South Pacific sailing trip in 2002, presumed dead.

Channing Frye

• 6-11, 240

• Years at UA: 2001-05

• Big stat: 258 career blocked shots, second only to Anthony Cook (278) at the UA.

• Known for: Offense and rebounding (975, third on UA career list)

• Post-UA: First-round pick of Knicks who also played for the Trail Blazers and is now known for three-point shooting with hometown Phoenix Suns.

Jordan Hill

• 6-10, 235

• Years at UA: 2006-09

• Big stat: 375 rebounds in 2008-09, a UA single-season record

• Known for: Rapidly improving game that resulted in 32 career double-doubles over three-year career.

• Post-UA: First-round pick of Knicks now averaging 6.1 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Houston Rockets.

Derrick Williams

• 6-8, 240

• Years at UA: 2009- present

• Big stat: 224 free throws so far this season, on pace to break Khalid Reeves' record of 264 in 1993-94.

• Known for: Ability to score inside and out, with both hands, and attract fouls.

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Pac-12 basketball standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Arizona 0 0 0 0.000 5 0 0 1.000
Washington 0 0 0 0.000 3 0 0 1.000
Stanford 0 0 0 0.000 4 0 0 1.000
UCLA 0 0 0 0.000 4 0 0 1.000
Colorado 0 0 0 0.000 3 1 0 0.750
California 0 0 0 0.000 3 1 0 0.750
Oregon State 0 0 0 0.000 3 1 0 0.750
Utah 0 0 0 0.000 2 1 0 0.667
Oregon 0 0 0 0.000 3 2 0 0.600
Arizona State 0 0 0 0.000 3 2 0 0.600
USC 0 0 0 0.000 3 3 0 0.500
Washington State 0 0 0 0.000 1 2 0 0.333

AP Top 25


Pac-12 basketball schedule

Teams Date Time
Kansas State at
Arizona
11/25 68-72
VCU at
Oregon
11/25 77-63
Delaware at
Stanford
11/25 47-84
Cal State-Fullerton at
USC
11/25 49-53
Texas-Pan American at
Utah
11/26 6:00 pm
Auburn at
Oregon State
11/26 7:00 pm
Cal Poly at
California
11/26 8:00 pm
San Diego State at
Arizona
11/26 8:00 pm
San Jose State at
Washington
11/27 9:00 pm
UC-Santa Barbara at
Washington State
11/27 10:00 pm
Colgate at
Arizona State
11/29 12:00 am
Alabama State at
Utah
11/29 12:00 am
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