So how does losing Williams to North Carolina benefit the Cats? It is very similar to the Ndudi Ebi situation, but with better timing. First of all, Williams will give the NBA a look. He has never denied an interest in the NBA. He said at this time he is looking forward to being a college player, but has mentioned that the NBA is still a consideration.
"Right now I want to play at least a few years of college basketball," Williams said in early June. "Of course you never know what could happen later on."
In a recent interview with Dave Telep, Williams mentioned that his mother was an inspiration for him to keep working. Considering that Williams is a very nice, considerate young man, making enough money to support the entire family has to be a huge interest.
"When I see my mom at home taking care of my two brothers that drives me," Williams said.
Arizona has just gone through the drama of wondering if a prized recruit would go pro and now it avoids that distraction when next year's NBA Draft comes around. Williams may shun the draft and enroll at Carolina. In fact, I think that's very likely. Williams may know well in advance that he is going to school. He may never test the draft waters. On the other hand… Roy Williams and his staff may have the same sleepless nights that Lute Olson and his staff had this past month.
Realistically, Williams will not spend more than two years in college. If he does not go pro right away, he will likely take a serious look at the NBA after his freshman season. Anyway it happens it will be a distraction. However, with his skills it is very likely that it will be more than worth any distraction it causes. While I am personally not a fan of having players that jump after a year or two, there is no denying that having a Marvin Williams in uniform will be a good thing.
Where it can work for Arizona is if it can land a "sleeper" who will stay longer than a year or two. That is, if the UA can find a player who may not have the immediate skills of a Williams, but can contribute to the program for three or four years. A Channing Frye-type player would not only help in the short term, but his staying power (in Frye's case at least three seasons) could be more beneficial in the long run. Williams may be a "10" but having an "8" for two more years may be the better move for the program. Of course, if Williams has a Carmello Anthony-like impact, it's hard to argue his value.
Williams' announcement will also help Arizona in recruiting. One "problem" with Williams is that he was a combo-forward. He's considered one of the best, if not the best power forward recruit in the nation. He's also good enough to be a small forward and would likely see time there if he had chosen to play for Arizona. It is likely that he could have scared away players at both positions. Big men may have been worried that the best power forward had committed and wings would be worried that he'd eat up their minutes. Arizona is now able to recruit guys like Maarty Luenen. Malik Hairston and others without Williams' linger spector.
If the Wildcats can lure two good players to the program, it may be better than getting one great player and scaring off others.
I'm not going to pretend that landing Williams wouldn't have been a great get for Arizona. I'm not going to spin it and try to have you believe that he would have done more harm than good. Williams is a great kid and a great player. He would have helped Arizona. However, I do think the UA can benefit from losing out on him. After going through the Ebi situation (and to a lesser extent the Rick Rickert fiasco) I'm not convinced Arizona should back off of top-10 type players, especially big men. Unlike guards who rarely jump to the pros, the NBA covets height and will draft big men no matter how young. You will always have the shadow of The League following your elite big men recruits. For every David Padgett or Brian Butch who decides to go to school, there are a number of Ebis, Kendrick Perkins', Travis Outlaws and James Langs. And if you don't think that Padgett, Butch and UConn's Charlie Villanueva won't take a look at The League in the very near future, I have some beachfront property outside of Marana to sell you.
Arizona coaches head to Indianapolis and Teaneck next week knowing what they need and where they stand with their top recruit. They may have missed out on Williams, but his presence won't scare away other potential prospects.
The Cats may not be better off without Williams, but they sure won't suffer either.
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