Top Ten most influential: Derrick Williams

WildcatAuthority.com continues its countdown of the top ten most influential players in the program's history. Read on for a closer look at number four Derrick Williams.

The role a player filled in advancing the Arizona program was the biggest factor in judging the most consequential UA basketball players since the beginning of the Olson era. Players who helped build the program before it became a national entity were given special consideration. Consideration was also given to a player's role in building a school legacy, memorable performances, obstacles overcome, professional success, local ties, and philanthropic efforts



4. Derrick Williams

6-foot-8, 241 pounds

La Mirada High School Los Angeles, Calif.



Pre UA

Williams, a fringe top 100 high school recruit, initially signed to play for USC, but was released from his scholarship after USC head coach Tim Floyd was fired amid a recruiting scandal. Williams nearly committed to Memphis before signing with UA.

UA Career

2009-10: Fr. (16-15 overall record) 4th Pac-10

15.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 57.4 Field Goal Percentage

Regular Season: Williams wasted little time showing off his elite skills to the college basketball world. In the third game of the season, a 65-61 loss to Wisconsin in the Maui Invitational, Williams was too quick and strong for anyone on the court, finishing with 25 points on a school-record 21 free throw attempts.

Though the team's performance varied throughout the season, Williams remained consistent and emerged as the face of a new era of Arizona basketball.



2010-11: So. (30-8 overall record) 1st Pac-10

19.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 59.5 field goal Percentage, 56.8 Three Point Percentage (42-74)

Regular Season: As good as Williams was as a freshman, he was much improved as a sophomore. He continued to display his trademark strength and determination around the basket, which helped him lead the nation in free throw attempts, but he also showed a very consistent three-point shot, finishing just percentage points off Steve Kerr's school three-point percentage record.

NCAA Tournament: Williams had his way in No. 5 seed UA's 77-75 first round victory over the 12-seed Memphis Tigers. He scored 22 points and hauled in 10 rebounds while his last-second block helped secure a 77-75 victory.

Next up was four-seed Texas- a team featuring three 2011 NBA first round draft picks. Williams struggled from the field, but strong play from his teammates kept the game close. Down two with five seconds left, Williams made an off-balance shot while getting fouled. He then made the game-winning free throw, as UA advanced to play the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils in the Sweet Sixteen.

Duke got off to a fast start and looked on the verge of blowing out Arizona early, but UA fought back and went into halftime down only eight, due to Willams' 25 points on 5-for-5 shooting from behind the arc. The Wildcats then delivered maybe the best half of basketball in school history, outscoring Duke 55-33 in a performance that left many Duke players in tears.

The win over Duke advanced UA to the Elite Eight to play the three-seed and eventual national champion Connecticut Huskies. Williams missed much of the first half in foul trouble, and the Wildcats went into the half down seven. Arizona battled back, but Williams missed a three-point attempt in the closing seconds as UA lost 65-63.



Honors/Achievements

  • 2009-10 All-Pac-10 Team

  • 2009-10 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year

  • 2010-11 All-Pac-10 Team

  • 2010-11 AP 2nd Team All-American

  • 2010-11 Pac-10 Player of the Year



    Post UA

  • 2011 NBA Draft: Rd. 1 Overall 2



    Role in Building Program: Williams signed to play for a school facing unprecedented turmoil. Besides breaking in its fourth coach in four years, the program possessed just one established player on the roster. One ESPN expert went so far as to say it would take UA seven years to rebuild in the wake of the chaos and upheaval surrounding Lute Olson's retirement.

    It was clear the moment Williams hit the court at UA that he had strength and skills other players simply didn't possess. He got progressively better, and by the end of his sophomore year he was arguably the best player in the country. Because of his dominance, it took just two years before UA was again competing for spots in the Final Four.

    As the first prominent player of the Miller era, Williams' success has paid dividends on the recruiting trail, as many high-profile AAU coaches have mentioned Williams' development under Miller as one of the reasons their players became interested in UA.

    Williams is Number 4...because he was the driving force behind the re-emergence of a proud program.


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