NBA Draft Media Day 2011 took place yesterday, and Bleacher Report was there reporting on a frenetic event where journalists from across the world scratch and claw for any quotes, sound bites and video clips from future NBA draft picks.
Twelve players appeared at the Westin Times Square, split into two groups of six, for 30-minute shifts early Wednesday afternoon. Here is the Derrick Williams recap.
* * *
Of the 12 NBA Media Day players, Derrick Williams was one of the few decked out in a full blazer and tie during the 30-minute session. He needed to look in his Sunday best as he answered 4,000 questions about his position at the professional level (on the day, I didn't hear more talk about one certain topic than this).
Williams also was candid about his biggest fear, his meteoric rise from high school to future possible No. 2 pick, his playing days at Arizona and much more.
Paul Kasabian is an NBA and New York Knicks Featured Columnist. All quotes were obtained firsthand at NBA Draft Media Day.
Even when Williams wasn't asked specifically about his position, he specifically tried to make a point that being a "tweener" was more of a strength than anything. He pointed to this as what he will bring best to the table professionally:
"Just mismatches and being able to do multiple things on the offensive side and guard multiple positions. I think I'm quicker than most people think, and just using that to my strengths."
One has to wonder if his PR team specifically told Williams to try to twist the tweener argument and make it into a positive. Williams does have a point though: While it can be a curse to be in the middle of two positions, it certainly can be a blessing as well.
Williams also pointed out that players aren't necessarily categorized into one of the roles that the five set positions are supposed to contain. This point was brought it in different ways numerous times, with Williams highlighting the fact that combo forwards have found good success in the NBA.
"There are so many types of players out there nowadays," Williams said. "If you look at [Dirk Nowitzki], he's a 4 but never in the post. [Lamar Odom] is a combo forward, [then there's a] hybrid forward like Antawn Jamison. I think I can fit well in this league and use my strengths to my advantage."
Where Williams will be able to best use his mismatch strength is posting up threes mid-range, a la Carmelo Anthony. That would be unstoppable.
The story of Jimmer Fredette coming from Glens Falls, New York as a 2-star prospect before blossoming as a star at BYU is well known by now, but Derrick Williams' rags-to-riches tale also deserves recognition.
Williams was not named to Rivals' Top 150 list in the class of 2009, and according to Arizona coach Sean Miller (via Yahoo's Jeff Eisenberg), he was "probably the least heralded" of the five class of 2009 Arizona recruits.
Williams played on an AAU team with Jordan Hamilton, who was the star of the show. As Williams noted yesterday, his job was to supply rebounding and defense mainly. But his star quickly rose in two years.
"It’s a blessing," Williams said. "Three years ago I never expected to be in this situation. I'm just honored to be in the talks of being a top pick. It’s a small percentage of people that actually get picked in the draft, and to just be in the top three, it's amazing."
Williams' Arizona Wildcats went from 16-15 his freshman year to one three-pointer away from knocking off the eventual national champions in the Elite Eight the following season.
Williams talked about his role in the team's progression, and that in turn showed how his growth may impact his professional career.
"I think it took me a little while. We went 16-15 my freshman year, and [Coach Sean Miller] told me that for us to be good and get at that elite level, 'You're going to have to play big, demand the ball and be more of a leader.' I took that leadership role, and this year we turned out pretty good."
However, after Arizona's 87-65 loss to BYU, Miller ripped Williams publicly: "Can Derrick be equally good on defense as he is on offense? Can he not commit silly fouls and not give in on plays? He has all the ability, but will he be fully committed? He's our leader, so for us to get better it has to start with him."
Williams pointed to that as a crucial point in the Arizona season and his career.
"It was really important, when you have a coach that calls out your best player on the team. Whenever you call your best player out on the team, it shows that no one is bigger than the team or the program, and it really made me work harder, and that’s why I think we made the Elite Eight this season."
Ultimately, Williams enjoyed a resounding sophomore season. He averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, no contest more memorable than his 32 points and 13 rebounds against Duke in a 93-77 Sweet 16 win.
"I think [that game] really raised my stock a lot. A lot of people were saying top 10, and then after that game I moved into the top three."
Derrick Williams is projected in most mocks to go to the Minnesota Timberwolves at this juncture, but he is still hopeful that Cleveland will take him first: "Yeah, I think there's always a chance. We'll never know until that draft pick. One or two, it's just an amazing feeling to be here right now."
Williams made it known that he feels very confident in his abilities when asked whether he thought he was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
"I feel like I am the most overall ready in this spot by my size and ready to make an impact. Whatever team chooses me, I think I'm going to have a good fit whatever I go. Obviously they have somewhere I can play, use whatever my abilities and use that to my advantage."
He made it very clear, however, that he has no aspirations of being the next LeBron James if he does end up in Ohio.
"I don’t want to be LeBron, I don’t want to be anything like him. I think whoever gets picked at the No. 1 spot, that’s what the city is going to be looking for the next LeBron. I don’t want to be anything labeled next to him. He's going to go down as one of the top 25 best players to ever play the game. But I'm not trying to be like him, I just want to get out there and play my game like I've been doing my whole career."
If picked by Minnesota, Williams would go to another team that also has a big 3, once picked second overall in the NBA draft, in Michael Beasley. Concerns will be raised as to how court time will be split.
Conceivably, Kevin Love would probably move to the 5, with Williams playing the 4 and Beasley the 3. Given Williams' desire to play on the wing more in college, this may not suit him best, though Williams remained optimistic that a pairing could work.
"Me and Mike Beasley play a little similar. I like to shoot a little more than him. On the advantage side, it's hard to guard two guys that similar. We'd give up some height, but on the offensive side, we'd be hard to guard."
That is so, but on the defensive side, that will not work as well. Minnesota is not big enough for the two of them.
If you couldn't tell that Derrick Williams is a very confident person when watching him at Arizona, you could still tell at Media Day through his words.
"I never really lacked confidence. If you don’t have confidence, that’s when bad things happen. Even when things go wrong, you always got to show confidence...my whole family is confident, especially my mom."
Therefore, it was surprising that he admitted his biggest fear headed to the NBA.
"There are a lot bigger guys than me on the court—just strength-wise I'd probably say that, just not being as big as everybody else. At the college level I was bigger than most guys, so I can't use that to my strengths now."
That admittance of fear, coupled with his long journey from high school shadow to college superstar, shows how grounded Williams is amidst the show of confidence throughout his interview.
He will sure as hell try to make it in the Minnesota situation strategically if that comes to fruition, knowing there is still a long road ahead after starting a remarkable journey that began as a little-heralded high school prospect just three years ago.