With all the love going towards Dee Brown this preseason, we at Illini-Nation.com figured it was time to give some props to his backcourt mate Deron Williams. Deron has been living in other players shadows since high school but seems unfazed by it all. While I'm sure he likes attention just like everyone else, Deron goes about his business in a quiet and professional manner. Teaming with Bracey Wright in high school and now Dee Brown in college has allowed Deron to become an unselfish player with a pass first mentality. He flourishes in this kind of role. However, Deron has a nice repertoire of offensive moves besides passing the rock. Deron commonly uses moves such as a hesitation dribble or a killer crossover to get by his man. Look for him to try and bust a few ankles this year. Last season Deron was way too unselfish. This year the Illini will need him to become more of a leader on the offensive end of the floor. "Winning is very important to us, I will do whatever it takes to win," said Williams.
Coach Weber and Deron at practice AP
Deron averaged almost 18 ppg and 8 apg as a senior at The Colony high school in Texas. He is definitely a triple threat with the ball in his hands. As a freshman at Illinois last year, Deron was relied upon mainly to take care of the ball and to hit the open man. The former coaching staff tried to instill confidence in Deron and his jumper but he never seemed to establish a rhythm last year. It wasn't that Deron had bad mechanics, it was all about confidence and repetition. To make up for his scoring inefficiency, Deron made it up by leading the conference in assists per game and becoming one of the top lockdown defenders in the league.
Deron against UNC's R. Felton
So what can we expect from Deron this year? Deron has been working extremely hard on his jump shot over the summer. Besides hitting the 3-pointer, the Illini will need Deron to take his man off the dribble with an assortment of moves and either go all the way or else pull up for a nice looking jumper. Look for him to double his ppg output to at least 12 per game. "This summer I just shot 400-500 jump shots a day, I feel really confortable out there," said Williams. His assists should remain the same and perhaps even climb if another player steps up and takes some scoring pressure off of him. Deron allows Illinois to play a 3-guard lineup. Since he can be effective guarding the opponents small forward, Bruce Weber will be able to add an additional guard to the lineup and use team speed to his advantage. This is going to create extreme matchup problems for Illini opponents.
Deron has become the leader of this team alongside Dee Brown. He is constantly telling people where to go and getting in their faces if they're not giving their all. Deron looks like a man on a mission this year and is having fun. The Illini can only hope this carries over into the regular season. What you see is what you get with Deron, he'll probably never just tear up the stat sheets. You can rely on him. He will always give you his best and will not make the mistakes to kill your team.
Deron is also a very smart player. He patterns his game off of Jason Kidd. In my opinion, that is as accurate of a comparison as I can think of. Deron has the potential to be a better shooter than Jason but I won't go as far as saying a better passer. Deron will be making some NBA team very happy in the next couple years. Of all the Illini on the current roster, I think Deron has the best chance of making a long career in the NBA. If you're looking for a true point guard with size, speed, and smarts, then Deron Williams is your man.
Could the be the best backcourt in the country?