The Life of a D-1 Parent

<p>Much has been said about the players this year for the Illinois men's basketball team, but sometimes what goes unnoticed is how tough things can get for a parent. Read here on my time spent with the mother of one of the Illini basketball players.

For the average fan it's really easy to go to a game and tell the players what you think of them or maybe while you're at home toss a remote or two. Can you imagine how tough it can be on the parents of these players when they aren't playing well?

Denise Smith is the mother of All Big Ten guard Deron Williams. She really loves the game of basketball and knows the game. But often times people forget what it's like to have your kid struggle from time to time. Recently ESPN analyst Jay Bilas called Williams a chubby guard making jump shots. I know if Bilas had to say it over again he wouldn't have because that's not him. "That hurt Deron a little, people sometimes don't think before they say things." According to Smith, Williams is a tough kid.

Deron went through hard times coming off his injury. There were games that he struggled after his injury, but there was one game that Deron played like Superman himself. That was the Illinois - St. Redbirds game when Williams gave the Illini fans a game to remember. Without him the Illini might have lost. Smith said she attended that game and wanted to spend the weekend with her son but he was exhausted. "He slept the entire day. He played so hard that day, because Deron just wants to win," said Smith.

Smith added, "It's tough to get to all the games. The twelve-hour drive is tough, but I try. I can't stand listening to the games on the Internet because it doesn't give you the true feeling of the game. I like to see what's going on away from the ball." Which would be tough on Ms. Smith because she's like most fans. She has her "favorite" official that she likes to give an ear-full to, and that's Ted Hillary. "There's nothing better than going to the games so they can hear me," said Smith with a laugh.

Smith was very surprised how well her son played this year. "Most times people only care about scoring and guys that make the flashy plays that make the SportsCenter dunk. Deron is not like that, he just runs the offense and makes plays when they need him to. Case in point, people think Deron had a bad game against Duke because he didn't shoot the ball well, but he had six assists and he usually plays against the team's best player, which takes a lot out of you." My first thought when Smith said that to me was the two times he had to guard Penn St. big-man Jan Jagla, who is 7'0", and more than held his own.

The NBA will come calling soon, but for now Deron will be an Illini - that's for sure. He just quietly works on his game and tries to improve, just like he did this year when he passed former teammate Bracey Wright of Indiana. During their junior high and high school years, Wright received all the publicity. Now most of the Indiana fans are saying they made a mistake in saying that the Illini got the second best player on that team.

Smith knows that Williams being in Champaign is temporary for their family, but it's the best thing for him at this point. She does miss her son but that's why she tries to make that drive from time to time. She did attend the Big Ten Tournament and the games in Atlanta. When she goes to spend time with her son he's so tired, but he still tries to show his love.

Illini fans, consider yourselves very lucky to have Deron. He's good enough to start for any team in America and he chose to play for you. In my book that deserves a high-five.

Deron with two of his biggest fans

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