June 27, 2011
Willing to be great
Alright; Draft day, and all the hoopla that goes along with it is finally over. Derrick Williams went second overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves and was introduced to the city and to the local media a few days ago. Williams should compete for playing time right away (if there is an NBA season next year), and in a lot of people's opinions, Williams should have been the number one overall pick. That honor went to Kyrie Irving, now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Not that there's anything wrong with taking a point guard number one overall, because the way the league is headed it's becoming a point guard/point-forward league, but Irving lacks the athleticism that Williams possesses and While Williams was and still is regarded as somewhat of a "tweener", Minnesota received a great pick. In Minnesota, he'll be playing on a team full of "tweeners" - players that play multiple positions. Michael Beasley is a small forward-power forward. Wes Johnson is a shooting guard-small forward. Anthony Randolph is a forward-center.
"I wouldn't pigeon hole him into a four or a three," his agent Rob Pelinka said. "He can do both. The great players in the game can do that. What's Kevin Durant? Or Dirk Nowitzki goes all the way to the finals and he doesn't have a position. I think the league is becoming more of a hybrid league."
The media, the fans, and people like me can speculate all we want 24/7 for the rest of the summer all the way until training camp (whenever that is) but none of it matters now. Williams jump in the last two years is the remarkable story here. Started out zero and wound up a hero, for now anyway. The point is here that Williams' story and his journey up to this point should be used as an inspiration to those that have been told they're not good enough or the best recruit for a particular team.
Williams was motivated from the day he was left off the top 100 recruiting list as a high school senior at La Mirada to the day he got drafted as a rising college sophomore at Arizona, obviously his career in the NBA only has taken one step with the draft and now is the time for Williams to put in the hard work to prepare for an adventure that is known as the rookie season.
But what intrigues me the most, and will continue to intrigue me until something more fascinating comes along in my life, is the way Williams came to rise on the national level, it reminds me of New York Knick starting forward Landry Fields and his story.
Fields was a small time player from Orange County at a tiny school known for producing football athletes, as a senior he committed to Stanford and then spent four years destroying the competition at NBA workouts after a productive senior season when he led the Pac-10 in scoring and rebounding (Sean Elliott was the guy to do that for Arizona in 1988-89), was then drafted by the New York Knicks in the second round of draft night and wound up starting all 82 games plus the post-season series against the Boston Celtics. Want more? Fields was the steal of the draft, getting selected to the NBA all-rookie team - as a second-rounder that's unheard of.
Why do I compare these two players? One is a lottery pick and one was a second round pick, but both share something in common that nobody can take away from them, their desire to be great. At Stanford, Fields was a gym-rat, learning tricks of the trade and improving his basketball IQ that made him a great college player, and it's carried over to the NBA.
Arizona head coach Sean Miller has often talked about the work ethic of Derrick Williams and harped on it, saying how he would spend hours in the gym by himself perfecting his craft when nobody was watching, that's what separated him from most guys on the team, and that's what separates good from great, that extra effort that most aren't willing to put in until they have a fire lit under them at some point in their life. Thursday night's draft was an indication that the hard work paid off thus far.
Now Williams will continue to work while nobody is watching and prepare for his new journey with his new team in his new city. Now he has a whole new set of doubters in the NBA. Many draft analysts called this class the weakest in years, saying there were no clear-cut, perennial All-Stars in the bunch.
He's heard that all before.
"I've come a long way since high school," he said. "Barely got recruited. It's an honor and a blessing to have this opportunity. I'm going to take full advantage of it."
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