Williams excited for opportunity

WildcatAuthority.com talks with Derrick Williams about the dunk contest, his performance this season, Arizona's team this year, and more.

Being a rookie in the NBA will bring many ups and downs with any player trying his hardest to prevent the downs from happening more often than not. Former Arizona Wildcats forward Derrick Williams finds himself a rookie in a shortened season due to the lockout and also fighting for minutes on a young and talented Minnesota Timberwolves team.

While he was at Arizona, Williams was featured on several different highlight type plays as he often played above the rim. He was great at catching lob passes and even having big time dunks that ended up on top plays almost every single night.

With All-Star festivities approaching Friday for the NBA, Williams has been selected to put his athleticism and creativity on the biggest stage in the 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. Williams will be going up against Paul George (Indiana Pacers), Jeremy Evans (Utah Jazz) and former Arizona alum Chase Budinger (Houston Rockets).

Williams is excited for the opportunity and definitely has respect for the competition.

"I'm feeling really confident," said Williams. "There are three other guys that can really jump as well and it's going to be a really exciting dunk contest. There are a lot of people that are sleeping on the other three guys and picking me as a winner already but Chase [Budinger] and Paul George can really jump out of the gym, so it's going to be fun.

Jeremy Evans is replacing Iman Shumpert (left patella tendinitis) of the New York Knicks. Perhaps the fan favorite is now out of the competition as Shumpert was expected to use Jeremy Lin to assist in some of the dunks.

Arizona fans will have a reason to cheer on Saturday night in the competition as both Williams and Budinger both will compete for the crown. Probably only Wildcat fans know the type of athleticism that Budinger has, but Williams knows and says it is great for the program they both represent proudly as a whole.

"It makes it more interesting," explained Williams. "Chase was at Arizona a year or two before me and he can really jump out of the gym. He got all his hops from volleyball and everyone knows volleyball guys can really jump, so he's really going to use that to his advantage. It's just a really great thing for our program. UA has a lot of players in the NBA in the past and it's great that we are on that stage and there at the same time."

Perhaps no two players have been known for their jumping abilities at Arizona quite like Budinger and Williams before Nick Johnson arrived on campus this season. Budinger, most notably, was runner up at the McDonald All-American slam dunk competition back in 2006.

Williams says he still keeps up with the current team and still remains pretty good friends with a number of players. Arizona is still in a position to make the NCAA tournament and though the team has lost some scoring from last season, Williams thinks they will be just fine.

"They are not bad at all," said Williams. "Losing myself and Momo [Jones] kind of does hurt them in the points category, but they are making up for it. Angelo [Chol] can really block shots, Nick Johnson can really jump out of the gym and can shoot, and when Josiah [Turner] is on his game, he is really on his game. Not too many people can stop that.

"It's about getting better and the people that are already there. It's about getting better in the offseason. Solomon and those guys got better this offseason and it definitely shows, especially later on in the season. So far they are doing well, especially with the players they lost."

In his rookie season, Williams is currently averaging 7.3 points per game and 4.2 rpg in 18.1 mpg. He has just started four games thus far and is still finding his niche on the team.

Nevertheless, Williams says he is learning a lot along the way.

"There are a lot of ups and downs, but at the same time if you are not having ups and downs then you are not getting better," said Williams. "I'm just getting better each and every time I'm out on the court, feeling confident and just being patient. My time will come and when it does come I'll be sure to make it worthwhile."


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