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October 9, 2011

Derrick Williams Part I: Playing overseas a possibility



It's one thing for a LeBron James or a Kobe Bryant of the NBA landscape to sit around and wait for the league's lockout to end. There's already a sense of financial security for the NBA's established stars.

But for former Arizona standout and current Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Derrick Williams there's a little more doubt in the immediate future.

GOAZCATS.com caught up with the No. 2 overall pick in this year's NBA draft Saturday afternoon after a return trip from Baltimore, where Williams was filming a commercial for Under Armour.

The 6-foot-8 forward got a taste of playing overseas in the Philippines in an exhibition that featured such stars as Bryant, league most valuable player Derrick Rose and two-time scoring champion Kevin Durant. And, now, with the lockout exactly 100 days old, Williams said he has given some serious thought to finding a team overseas.

"If (the lockout) doesn't get fixed within the next week or so, then I'm really going to be looking into it," Williams said via cell phone from Los Angeles. "I think that's the Plan B, especially at this point."

The first two weeks of the NBA season could be canceled as early as Monday, according to various reports, and stars like Carmelo Anthony were sure as late as Saturday evening that an agreement would not be reached in time.

Despite the labor dispute, Williams said he does not regret his decision to declare for the NBA draft after his sophomore season.

"Everybody wants to be a top pick in the (NBA) draft, so I have no regrets of leaving," said Williams, who averaged team highs of 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds last season while leading UA to a Pac-10 Conference regular-season title and an Elite Eight appearance.

Williams added that the only difference right now between life in college and life as an NBA player is the extra time he can spend in the gym.

Williams said he has remained focused on staying in shape so that he's ready for the phone call to report to Minnesota.

"Right now, I would've already been in Minnesota working out with my teammates," he said. "You just never know when they're going to call and when the lockout's going to end. At this rate, it could end any minute now. I'm always trying to stay in shape."

And, so, the La Mirada, Calif., native is in Southern California for another exhibition with a group of NBA stars - this time for Sunday's Drew League vs. Goodman League rematch at the Walter Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State.

Also expected to play in the exhibition dubbed "The Big Payback" are: Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder teammate James Harden, Washington Wizards rookie sensation John Wall, and Milwaukee Bucks guard and one-time Arizona commit Brandon Jennings, among others.

Unlike the average pickup game, Williams said the intensity of an actual game should be present and a treat for the basketball-starved fans in attendance.

"I think it's a little different than a regular charity-type game," Williams said. "People are going to really play like it's an actual game instead of like a charity game, where they're not really playing defense or letting people shoot. I think that's why a lot of people want to play in it. We're still in the lockout, but, at the same time, you always want that game-like feeling whenever you step on the court."

Later this month, if a deal has still not been reached, Williams said he will be back in Tucson - where he spent the summer with the current UA roster - but this time he will be a special guest. The Wildcats will induct Williams and former Wildcats forward Chase Budinger into the McKale Ring of Honor at the Oct. 22 Red-Blue Game.

Budinger qualified for the honor after being named the 2007 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, while Williams won the award in 2010 along with last season's conference player of the year honor.

The Ring of Honor is exclusive to student-athletes who compete at McKale Center (men's and women's basketball, volleyball and gymnastics) and achieve one of the following honors:

-Be named a first-team All-American
-Be named National Player of the Year
-Be named conference player or freshman of the year
-Top the UA career leader charts in three or more statistical categories, and hold the record for at least five years
-Play in the NBA for 10 years
-Win an Olympic medal


"Yeah, I'll be there," Williams said. "All I know is that myself and Chase Budinger will be there, if the lockout continues.

"I wasn't the highly recruited guy coming out of high school. It still shocks me sometimes. I'm happy with the time that I spent there. It's a great school, great basketball school as well. I really encourage a lot of other people to go there because I know they'll have a great time and they'll love the fans and everything like that."

Check back tomorrow for Part II of GOAZCATS.com's interview, where Williams gives his thoughts on the current Arizona team and the recruiting prowess of head coach Sean Miller.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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