A Derrick Williams fan walked into the UA Bookstore this week to buy one of the new Arizona basketball jerseys, and not surprisingly, it was the one with No. 23 on it.
Then he had his photo taken with Williams, who wears 23 for the Wildcats, and posted it online.
"I thought that was pretty cool," Williams said.
The fan's name? Solomon Hill.
Apparently, Wildcats fans who fill up McKale Center and watch on television aren't the only ones enamored with Arizona's super sophomore, who has been climbing the NBA mock draft boards in the past month. He dunks, they talk about it. He rises to No. 5 on Draft Express' mock draft list, they talk about it.
He gets a new jersey, they buy it.
They do it jokingly, perhaps, but also in a manner that suggests Williams is still a much well-liked teammate, rather than a short-timer whose focus on future riches is affecting team chemistry.
In fact, Williams says he doesn't pay attention to talk about his game or his NBA prospects, though he said he hears it every day, even from his ever-needling teammates.
Kyle Fogg "says it sometimes, like, 'Oh, how's Top 5 doing today?' and stuff like that," Williams said. "But I don't focus on that. I'm just trying to get better every day in practice."
Fogg admits the teasing is most certainly true.
"I do it all the time," Fogg says, later adding with a smile, "What makes it even better is Derrick, as good as he is, he's one of the least cocky persons that you can meet. So I kind of take it upon myself to have a big head for him."
He's not cocky, UA coach Sean Miller says, because the people around him won't let him get cocky.
Unlike many ascending NBA prospects, whose friends and handlers can increase proportionally to their draft stock, Williams doesn't need a filter, Miller said.
"He really doesn't have a lot of people in his ear," Miller said. "He comes from a great family. His sister and his mom are two really important people in his life and they represent all the good things that you would want parents and sisters to be, and he has one (former) coach he thinks the world of, and they're a team behind Derrick. And that's it."
Williams must know that at least some people think he's pretty good, of course. He admits to racing home to see if his dunks made "SportsCenter" highlights, as did his stunningly elastic catch-and-slam of Kevin Parrom's wide alley-oop pass against UCLA last week.
Even in that case, though, his teammates are right there with him, not with jealously, but with almost fanlike admiration. Parrom "tells me every day, 'I don't know how you caught that,'" Williams said.
Deep down, though, Williams says he looks at things differently. To him, he's still the lightly recruited forward out of La Mirada High School lucky to be playing for a high-major program. He's the guy who sits behind a whole bunch of other players in the race for Pac-10 Player of the Year, such as Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning of Washington, and Klay Thompson of Washington State.
Just another guy.
"Just going back to high school or even last year, I just told myself, 'Play like you're always underrated,'" Williams said. "That's what I always do, just always have something to prove to people. I'm always telling myself there's always somebody better than me on the court. I think that really helps me, to be better than that person on the court, whether (he's) guarding me or is somebody else on the court."
Of course, the major mock drafts usually aren't too far off the mark. No matter what he tries to think, Williams is a top NBA prospect. Maybe he's even a lottery pick, and his coach, for one, wouldn't be surprised if he was.
Miller, after all, is a fan of Derrick Williams, too.
"I hope so. I really do," Miller said, when asked if Williams can become a lottery pick. "I can't control that part of it. I know the best way that we can help Derrick, and how he can help himself, is by our team continuing to have success.
"As our team continues to have success, everybody points to who deserves the credit, and we all know what type of individual year he's had. And if at the end of all that, if any of our players can become a first-round pick, or lottery pick, that's great."
• Williams sat out Monday's practice because of his sprained right pinky, and Tuesday, he was scheduled for limited work only, though Miller said Williams would practice in full today. Williams wore padded tape over the finger on Saturday against USC and will continue that this weekend, Miller said.
• Guard MoMo Jones also sat out Monday because of a hip pointer and slightly sprained knee suffered Saturday, Miller said. It was "not because he couldn't go, but because we wanted him to heal up as best he could," Miller said, adding that Jones would be fine this weekend.
On StarNet: Follow the Cats on Bruce Pascoe's blog at go.azstarnet.com/pascoe
• Height, weight: 6 feet 8 inches, 240 pounds
• Class: Sophomore
• From: La Mirada, Calif.
• 2010-11 stats: 19.8 ppg 7.6 rpg, 63.8 FG%, 70.6 three-point FG%
Early draft projections:
• NBADraft.net: No. 2
• Draft Express: No. 5
• What: Arizona at Stanford
• When: 7 p.m. Thursday
• TV: FSAZ, Channel 58
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM