2011 NBA Draft: Derrick Williams Ranks as Top Prospect

Dave-Te' ThomasContributor IIJune 15, 2011

Williams Challenges UConn under the Boards
Williams Challenges UConn under the BoardsHarry How/Getty Images

DERRICK WILLIAMS     Small Forward     University of Arizona Wildcats

#23     6:08.2-241     La Mirada, California     La Mirada High School



University of Arizona fans have become accustomed to seeing a “Williams” in a Wildcats’ uniform. Most have gone on to earn league honors, as Derrick, the Pac-10 Conference’s Player of the Year in 2010-11, joined Pete Williams (1984-85), Brian Williams (1991) and Marcus Williams (2007) in seeing their surname listed on the All-Pac 10 charts after their respective seasons. Even though Williams’ stay in Tucson was brief, his rise to national prominence as a sophomore helped the Wildcats compile a 30-8 record, the 14th-best mark in the NCAA Division I ranks, despite most experts predicting that it would be a rebuilding year for Arizona. The 2010-11 campaign saw the sophomore place ninth in the nation in field goal percentage (.595) and 30th in scoring (19.5 ppg). He helped UA pile up 2,905 points, the 23rd-best total in college.


Professional scouts are greatly impressed with Williams’ athleticism and leaping ability, reminding most of a quicker version of the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony. In his first season with the Wildcats, he became just the sixth Wildcat and first freshman to lead the team in scoring (15.7 ppg), rebounding (7.1 rpg) and field goal percentage (.574).


What separates Williams from most college small forwards is his high basketball IQ, which allows him to effectively operate inside and on the perimeter, where his improved jumper greatly benefited a player already explosive around the basket. Even though he did not have enough attempts to qualify for the national title, he joined Jon Diebler of Ohio State (50.2%) as the only national ranked players to make more than 50% of his three-point field goal tries last season (56.8%).


Williams was able to capitalize on his explosive initial burst, using his long stride and exceptional foot work to get to the basket at will. Power forwards were too slow to stay with him up and down the court, and his body control allowed him to attack the basket en route to the foul line, where he made 74.6% of his free throws as a sophomore.


The Los Angeles Dailey News’ Player of the Year and All-Area selection was also named the Suburban League’s Player of the Year as a senior at La Mirada High School, but Williams was rated just the 72nd-best prep player and 25th-best power forward in the nation by Rivals.com. He originally committed to play at the University of Southern California, but asked for a release from his letter of intent when head coach Tim Floyd resigned amid allegations of NCAA rules violations.


Williams was quickly recruited by Arizona’s first-year head coach, Sean Miller, who felt that the La Mirada High’s star player was destined for great success at the college level. The coach got even more than he could have imagined from his recruit, as Williams went on to earn 2010 Pac-10 Conference Freshman of the Year honors, in addition to earning a spot on the Freshman All-American team.


Williams averaged 15.7 points per game in 2009-10, starting 30-of-31 games. He connected on 162-of-282 field goals (57.4%), but was hesitant with his perimeter game, making just four of the 16 three-point shots he attempted. HE crashed the boards for an average of 7.1 rebounds per game, but did have some foul trouble that would again plague him as a sophomore, fouling out of four contests during his first year with the Wildcats.


Williams was a consensus All-American and unanimous All-Pac 10 Conference choice as a sophomore. Averaging thirty minutes per game, he started all 38 contests for the Wildcats in 2010-11, connecting on 226-of-380 field goals and scoring 741 points (19.5 ppg), more than twice the total of UA’s second-leading scorer.


Williams also paced the team with 314 rebounds, 26 blocked shots and 37 steals on the way to leading the squad to the Pac-10 Conference championship. He scored in double figures 37 times, posted 13 double-doubles and posted the two highest single-game rebounding totals in the Pac-10 for the 2010-11 season (19 at Washington State and 18 at California).


After the Wildcats fell to eventual national champion Connecticut in the Elite Eight, Williams announced that he was leaving college to test his skills in the National Basketball Association. "After careful consideration and with the support of my family and Coach Miller, I have decided to declare for the 2011 NBA Draft," said Williams.


"I have enjoyed my two years at Arizona both on and off the court. 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." The 2011 Pacific-10 Conference and USBWA District IX Player of the Year, Williams' 741 points scored was the third-highest single-season total in school history, while his 247 free throws and 331 attempts were new single-season school records.


Additionally, his .568 three-point field goal percentage (42-of-74) this season ranked second in UA annals, while his 314 rebounds tied for seventh all time. Williams intends to complete his coursework this semester. "I will finish this semester at the U of A in good academic standing and plan on continuing to pursue my college degree in the future," he said. "I am a Wildcat for life."


"Today is a great day for Derrick Williams and for Arizona Basketball," said head coach Sean Miller. "Derrick is a special player and rightfully should be considered to be one of the all-time great Wildcats. As good of a player as he is, he is an even better person. We are all excited to follow his journey to the NBA, and I have no doubt he will be very successful as an NBA player. We wish him all the best and know that he will be a part of our basketball family forever."


Williams is one of 14 Wildcats to declare early for the NBA Draft since 1984: 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) and Jordan Hill (2009). Of that list, only Gardner, Rodgers and Shakur returned to school and completed their eligibility.



Positives…Williams might lack the ideal height to get his shot off flat-footed vs. bigger forwards, but his elevation, footwork and high arc, along with a smooth, effortless stroke has seen him drastically improve as a perimeter shooter…Physical “inside/outside” player who will crash the boards at both ends of the court, (105-of-314 rebounds came from the offensive glass last year)…Has a large wingspan, good upper body muscle tone and strength…Possesses very good quickness getting up and down the court, along with the range to consistently make shots at the perimeter, much like what you would expect from a shooting guard or small forward, but not from a four-spot player…With his balance and foot speed, he is capable of putting the ball on the floor and taking it up the court, whether to create his own shot or feed the ball out to an open teammate…Has the large, soft hands to take a shot off the dribble and is also capable of catching and shooting the ball, thanks to his precise foot placement and landing skills…Gets the ball off in an instant to prevent the opponent from taking advantage of his lack of size when delivering with his inside game…If an opponent sags or fails to come out and defend him, Williams will simply execute a turnaround fade away jumper…Strong finisher with either hand when playing in the post…When parked along the outside, opponents need to abandon their help defense stance and come out to attack him, or he will just fade back and hoist a long range jump shot…A versatile forward with the length to play the three-spot and the power to “bang heads” from the four-position, he plays with very good court vision and intelligence…Is not hesitant to establish position without the ball in his hands.. When roving along the baseline, he shows very effective catch-&-shoot agility…With his athleticism, range and ball handling skills, he can be dangerous shooting the ball when stepping out of the paint…Hangs in the air long, thanks to his great balance and is very effective at creating separation…Has very good face-the-basket scoring ability, as he has that sudden first step and ability to create his shot, especially when fading back to the perimeter…Crashes the boards with excellent elevation, showing good jumping ability to get to the rebound or to alter shots in the paint…Shows very good balance and body control leaving the ground, doing a nice job of drawing contact on the way to the rim to get to the charity stripe, where he has a very quick release and good elbow mechanics shooting from the free throw line…

Almost unstoppable going against power forwards, as he has explosive quickness in the paint…Very successful on isolation plays, as he has that quick release with his outside jumper that forces his man to close the gaps and try to not allow him space, but he will then utilize his quickness and shooting ability to play off the defender…Seems very well suited making plays at the at the top of the key on isolation plays, where he gets good elevation and can fire off a smooth floater, thanks to his body control…Generates proper arc and trajectory, along with a smooth and quick release when firing from the NBA three-point area…Has surprising strength to finish at the rim, along with the “hops” to elevate over defenders to get off a clean shot from the perimeter…Uses his strength and size well when fighting for position on the block…Very determined to attack the offensive glass, where he has the soft hands to execute the quick put-backs…Has a quick drop step coming off the block, keeping his hands active while shuffling his feet well to take the opponent off the dribble.


Negatives…Williams needs to play under control better, as he is not the greatest ball handler and is prone to costly turnovers, especially in post-up situations…Solid offensive rebounder, but while he is aggressive in establishing position, he could be a liability at the “four spot” at the next level, as he does not have the size to out-muscle NBA center and power forward types on the defensive boards for the rebound (tends to yield his position when more physical forwards press him)…Has to show a better anchor in attempts to box out his man…Has good strength, but when bigger defenders collapse on him, he needs to be more alert to teammates to pass the ball off to, as he tends to hold on to the sphere too long…Has made steady strides with his mid-range game, but his face-up game suffers when he gets too deliberate in getting off his shot…Has good vision, but when confronted by bigger defenders in the low post, he has problems out…Gets a bit reckless trying to make a steal on the ball and will get caught out of position often, needing to do a better job of staying in front of the slashers…Must do a better job playing in transition, as he sometimes takes too much time getting into position to defend on the other end of the floor…Might be a better fit for the three-spot due to defensive deficiencies, but will need to improve his right-handed shooting from the perimeter to not be so predictable when shooting from there.


Compares To…CARMELO ANTHONY-New York…Williams is more suited to play the three- spot, where there is no question that he will be much more capable of scoring in bunches at the next level. He might lack the brute strength to bang heads with the more physical power forwards, but when he keeps his opponent honest by dropping out of the paint to attack the rim from the perimeter, he showed that he can connect from three-point range. His defensive skills are not efficient enough to get steady minutes at power forward, as he might have the quickness to get back in a hurry on the fast break, but there are times where he appears a bit passive vs. slashers when playing defense on the perimeter.



In two seasons at Arizona, Williams averaged 17.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game in 69 career appearances (68 starts)…Connected on 58.6% of his field goal attempts (388-of-662) in that span, a figure that ranks fourth on the UA career field goal percentage list…Finished his career with 1,227 career points, which ranks 27th on the UA career scoring list…Scored more points in his first two seasons as a Wildcat than any other player in school history…Tied for seventh on the Arizona career scoring average list (17.8 ppg), sixth on the career free throws list with 405 and seventh on the career free throw attempts list (563)…No player in Arizona history averaged more free throw attempts per game than Williams' average of 8.2 per game…Became just the seventh sophomore in school history to score over 1,000 points.


2010-11 SEASON

The Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year was a three-time league Player of the Week choice, adding USBWA District IX Player of the Year accolades…Received All-American first-team honors from The NBA Draft Report, Sports Illustrated and the John R. Wooden Award, adding  second-team recognition from the Associated Press, USBWA, Sporting News, NABC and Foxsports.com…Winner of the Fred Enke Most Outstanding Player Award, given to the team’s most valuable player…Started all 38 games for the Wildcats, making 226-of-380 field goals (ninth in the nation at 59.5%), connecting on 42-of-74 three-point attempts (56.8% would have qualified for the national title, if he met the minimum requirements – 2.5 attempts per game played)…Successful on 74.6% of his free throws (247-of-331)…Pulled down 314 rebounds (73rd in the nation with an average of 8.3 rpg), including 105 from the offensive glass…Charged with 106 personal fouls, leading to five disqualifications…Had 43 assists, leading the team with 26 blocked shots and 37 steals, but turned the ball over 100 times…Helped lead Arizona (30-8, 14-4 Pac-10) to the 2011 Pac-10 Conference regular-season championship, as the Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Tournament West Regional final…It marked the fourth time in school history that an Arizona squad has won 30 or more games.



Named Pac-10 Player of the Week after posting 31 points, 10 rebounds and two assists vs. Arizona State and was again selected Pac-10 Player of the Week after averaging 17.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in wins at Rice and vs. Oklahoma...Chosen to the IBN Sports Las Vegas Invitational all-tournament team after averaging 20.8 points and 6.3 rebounds in event’s four games...Registered 17 points, nine rebounds, a season-high three assists and three steals vs. Texas, which included the go-ahead and-one with nine seconds to go... Posted a double-double (22 pts./10 reb.) to go with game-saving blocked shot with two seconds to go in the NCAA Tournament vs. Memphis...Tallied 24 points, 11 rebounds and two assists in a season-high 40 minutes vs. Washington...Hit 7-of-10 field goals to finish

with 20 points, six boards and two assists vs. USC...Drained 5-of-6 treys en route to 22 points and seven steals vs. Oregon State in the Pac-10 Tournament, adding 5-of-7 FG to finish with 14 points vs. Oregon...Posted 10th double-double of the season with 15

points and 12 boards vs. Oregon State during the regular season...Registered 15 points, seven rebounds and a career-high three blocked shots at UCLA...Produced his ninth double-double of the season with 26 points and 11 rebounds, and added a game-saving blocked shot with two-tenths of a second left to preserve a win vs. Washington...Hit 7-of-10 FGs and 12-of-12 FTs to finish with 26 points, eight rebounds and two assists vs. Washington State...Posted 12 points and 18 rebounds in a triple overtime win at California that included a season-high 14 defensive boards...Registered 21 points, eight rebounds and two assists at Stanford...Hit all six shots, including three treys, en route to 20 points on 1/29 vs. USC...Tallied 22 points and five rebounds vs. UCLA on 1/27, while attempting a career-high four treys (made two)...Notched 17 points and a career-high 19 rebounds with a block at Washington State...Posted his second straight double-double with 22 points and 11 boards at Washington...Collected another double-double with 31 points (8-of-12 FG and 15-of-16 FT) and 10 rebounds vs. Arizona State...Delivered a career-high 31 points (16-of-22 FT) to go with 12 rebounds vs. California on 1/6, where his 22 free throw attempts set a new school record...Posted 17 points (10-of-10 FT), nine boards and three assists vs. Robert Morris...Tallied 22 points (10-of-11 FT) to go with two blocks and a steal at North Carolina State...Totaled 27 points (9-of-15) to go with eight rebounds and two steals vs. Kansas.


2009-10 SEASON

Named to the Sporting News’ Freshman All-American first-team…All-Pac-10 Conference first-team choice and selected the league’s Freshman of the Year…Second-team NABC All-District XX choice…Member of the Collegeinsider.com Freshman All-American team…

Started 30-of-31 games for the Wildcats, as he ranked seventh in the Pac-10 in scoring (15.7 ppg, 486 points), finishing fourth in field goal percentage (.574/12th nationally on 162-of-282 attempts)…Also made 68.1% of his free throws (158-of-232)…Placed sixth in Pac-10 in rebounding (7.1 rpg, 219 total), third in defensive rebounds (4.9 avg, 151 total) and eighth in offensive rebounds (2.2 avg, 68 total)...Blocked 20 shots and had 19 steals, but fouled out of four contests and was charged with 60 turnovers…Logged 875 minutes of action.



Attended La Mirada (Cal.) High School, playing for coach Larry Kaupang…Ranked as the 72nd-best overall prospect in the country and the 25th-best power forward by Rivals.com, as he averaged 25.0 points and 12.0 rebounds per game and shot 40 percent from three-point range during his senior season…Helped the Matadors to a 21-9 record and a berth in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section playoffs...Named second-team “Best of the West” by the Long Beach Press-Telegram...Earned Player-of-the-Year honors from the Los Angeles Daily News All-Area squad and was selected the 2009 Suburban League Player of the Year...First-team All-State selection and chosen the CIF Class 2A Player of the Year... In three games vs. high school teams with top-30 recruits, Williams scored 39, 41 and 33 (37.7 ppg) points...Announced his arrival on the recruiting scene at the 2008 Pangos All-American Camp, where he earned all-star honors and competed in the "Cream of the Crop" game, while also participating in the Double Pump West Coast All-Star Camp.


General Studies major…Born 5/25/91 in La Mirada, California.