Hangin' with Mr. Williams

Anyone who closely follows Arizona basketball knows the importance of Pete Williams to the program. Williams was the first star player Lute Olson recruited and he was vital to the early success of the program. This past weekend I had the distinct pleasure of spending some time with Williams and came away very impressed with arguably the best rebounder in school history.

I was in Southern California to cover the basketball games against USC and UCLA. Cat Tracks arranged a bus trip with a number of fans and on the off night between games Williams stopped by the hotel where we were having a Cat Tracks Party Bus party.

I didn't want Williams to feel old, but it was a great pleasure to be able to spend some time with him. I had met him this past fall when he was in Tucson for the Lute Olson All-Star weekend, but this was the first time I really got to spend time with him. It was cool because he and Eddie Smith were the first Wildcats I remember after I was old enough to be a fan. I used to pretend I was them on my Nerf hoop back when I had to use a small stool to dunk the orange foam ball.

The first thing you notice about Williams is that the guy is still in great shape. He looks like he could still suit up for Olson and go get a double-double.

Williams was the center of attention and it would have easy to talk UA hoops all night, but was more interested in talking about his family and the Arizona program. He avidly follows the team and was at the USC game, but did not attend the UCLA game.

"I'm better off on my couch," Williams confessed. "I get more nervous watching than when I was playing. If things get too tense I can just turn off the television."

Williams played overseas, mostly in Turkey until recently when a knee injury ended his career. He made a good living and returned to Southern California where he works with kids and spends a lot of time with his family. Williams is such a family man that he has not played basketball in over a year. His free time is now spent playing with his children. He comes home from work and plays father, not hoops.

His son is developing into a very good basketball player. According to Williams his son, who is eight years old, averages about 21 points a game in his youth league. Everyone jokingly asked if he was ready to commit to the Wildcats and Williams laughed and said that he would love for his son to get a chance to play for coach Olson.

Oddly enough, another former Wildcat moved into Williams' neighborhood. John Edgar actually moved just two doors down. Edgar is an executive for a mortgage company and the two see each other as they head to work every morning. The two also meet up to watch Arizona games, going so far as hanging their jerseys in the window on game day.

"When John moved into the neighborhood Coach Olson sent us each a nice card," Williams said, then jokingly added. "On my card it said ‘hope he doesn't drop the property values too much'."

Williams has a lot of other ties to the Arizona program. He speaks to a number of former players, even those he did not play with.

He also keeps tabs with players he knows from Turkey. When Detroit's Mehmet Okur or San Antonio's Hedo Turkoglu come to LA Williams will venture out to the Staples Center to catch up with them and watch them play the Lakers or the Clippers.

Williams has nothing but the highest praise for Olson and the Wildcats. He loves the current players, even if he thinks that they should all stay in school instead of jumping too early to the NBA. He keeps tabs by reading various web sites and newspapers.

Too many times when you meet a childhood idol you get disappointed. In the case of Williams, nothing could be further from the truth. Williams was as nice and gracious as can be. He did not let the small group of fans go to his head, quite the opposite, he almost seemed embarrassed by the attention.

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