Arizona Basketball: Making a Case for Derrick Williams as Player of the Year

Ezra AmacherContributor IIIMarch 15, 2011

Would you believe me if I told you that there is a 6'8" power forward that averages 19 points and eight rebounds a game while making a ridiculous 60 percent of his 3-pointers?

Meet Derrick Williams.

If you have not heard of Arizona's Williams by now, you probably shouldn't even be allowed to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket.

The once lowly sought-after recruit has quickly taken over the college basketball world, even if he is doing so with little national attention compared to players like BYU's Jimmer Fredette and UConn's Kemba Walker.

While there is practically no chance that Williams will actually win the John R. Wooden Award, which is annually given out to college basketball's player of the year, he will most likely end up being drafted higher than Walker and Fredette, and perhaps even over Kyrie Irving and Jared Sullinger.

The power forward out of La Mirada, Calif. had a solid freshman season for a rebuilding Arizona squad, scoring nearly 16 points a game while winning the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Award.

Heading into this season, Williams was regarded as one of the top returning players (he was the only member of the 2010 All-Freshman Team that didn't enter the NBA Draft) but no one, including himself, could have imagined the success that he has found in his second year at Arizona.

National sports writers and television talking heads first began to pick up on Williams's amazing season when the Wildcats played and nearly beat the Kansas Jayhawks back in November. In that game, Williams scored 27 points but fouled out with minutes remaining, costing Arizona a chance to pull a shocking upset.

Many consider Williams's tendency to pick up nonsense fouls to be his biggest weakness, and that is something he has worked and improved on throughout the season.

But the 29 minutes that Williams did play was enough for Kansas head coach Bill Self to say, "I don't think anyone would argue [Williams] was the best player on the court." That included Kansas's own Morris brothers.

Since then, things have been different for Williams and his team. Arizona went on to win 27 games this season, good enough for a Pac-10 championship and a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Against California, Williams scored 31 points, in large part because he made 16 free throws. A week later, he once again hit 31 points, this time against rival Arizona State.

The part about Williams's game that makes him so scary for defenders is his ability to knock down threes with consistency when he is not dominating on the interior. During the Pac-10 Tournament, he made five three-pointers against a pesky USC defense, and overall, he shoots 60.3 percent from long range.

The greatest argument made against Williams's chances to win the national player of the year award is that his stats simply don't measure up to those of Jimmer Freddette and Kemba Walker. Well, maybe these next stats will help clear up why Williams's numbers can't be compared to two shooting guards.

Freddette averages a remarkable 28.5 points per game, but it takes him 20 shots to do so.

Walker needs 18 shots in order to score his average 23.5 points.

Williams on the other hand, only needs 9.5 shots a game to average 19.1 points.

When you break that down, Williams averages an astounding two points per every field goal attempt. Remember that includes missed shots as well.

Freddette only averages 1.4 points per attempt while Walker comes in at 1.3 points per every shot he takes.

It is no wonder why Williams is one of the most proficient scorers in college basketball and why USC head coach Kevin O'Neil called him "the most protected dude I've seen since Michael Jordan."

Even if he does get some star treatment from the refs, there is no denying how talented the Pac-10 Player of the Year is. He shoots 61.5 percent from the field overall and has 11 double-doubles this season.

He is also a great inspiration to many high school athletes who were told they were never good enough, as Williams was not even considered a four-star recruit by many websites.

But in just two years at Arizona, he has emerged as one of, if not the best, college basketball players in today's game and has all the makings for a potential stellar NBA career.

Before he most likely leaves for the draft, Williams and his Wildcats are looking to make noise in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona faces off against Memphis on Friday, and if it is fortunate enough to win that game, it will face the winner of Texas vs. Oakland.

The Wildcats will need more than just Williams if they want to make a deep NCAA Tournament run. Head coach Sean Miller has done a fantastic rebuilding job at Arizona, but the traditional point guard heavy school lacks a great guard, and that is a position that is very critical to postseason success.

Momo Jones will need to step up and the lone senior, Jamelle Horne, will be asked to provide senior leadership to a rather young and inexperienced team.

Arizona is considered a long shot to make the Final Four, but behind Williams, anything is possible.


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