Denise Smith is the proud mother of former Illini star guard Deron Williams who is currently shining at the NBA level. Smith, like many, has an opinion on the NBA and what takes place from time to time. "I really like the college game. I've moved back here to The Colony, Texas. I'm sorry I wasn't able to make it back to any Illinois games this year, but I've been really busy with the move. I was telling the Utah Jazz GM the other day that I'm just not a big fan of the NBA. I don't like the star treatment and late whistles; they wait too long to see if the shot goes in before they call fouls. I wish they had let Deron play a little more in the Golden State series. He wasn't able to be as aggressive because some of the fouls they were calling. The guys who have been in the league longer got the calls, to me that hurts the game and that could be why the ratings are down. In college it's just not like that. I think Utah can play with San Antonio, but it's frustrating to watch at times because of how the game is called," said Smith.
Smith and I both agree the NBA missed the boat on Williams this year. It seems as though people are just finding out about Deron because of the playoffs. Deron Williams finished the regular season with 16.2 points and 9.3 assists per game. In the 2007 playoffs he's at 18.4 and 9.0 per game and scored a career high 34 points in the Western Conference Finals this past Sunday. "He's been doing this all year long, his numbers have been good. The Jazz weren't on TV a lot, so that didn't help him. Deron is very competitive, when people look over him he uses that as motivation. He was really upset that he wasn't on the NBA All Star team this year and now he has more motivation for next year. He will try out for the Olympic team just like all the players and see what happens. I think for only being 22 years old and only in his second year he's done very well. We just all hope he stays healthy and doesn't get hurt during his career. I knew growing up he could play but Deron never complained, because often times he was over looked by other high school players. He just went out and tried to outwork everyone else," Smith added.
"Deron has become pretty good friends with Tony Parker and Eva. They talk and spend a lot of time together, I know Deron will be at their wedding but I'm not sure if he will be in it. His summer will be very busy so I'm not sure how much I'll get to see him with basketball and everything," Smith said.
Denise still visits the InsideIllini.com message board. "I was just on there the other day to read what was going on. The thread that I really find interesting is the comparison of Deron and Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich. Kirk's older than Deron and he's been in the league longer. That's all I'll say on that one. I like to check the site often times to see what recruits and fans are saying too," stated Smith.
Denise really feels that Illinois Head Coach Bruce Weber will see the recruiting benefits from that magical Final Four run in 2005. This week there was a story ran by The Salt Lake Tribune (UT), where a youngster (12) by the name of Jake Bero absolutely loves Deron Williams and backcourt teammate Dee Brown. Reports from that story were that Jake followed Williams and Brown all through their college years. "I think that's the age group where Weber will really see the benefits from that year. I can already tell by that story and I see a lot of kids wearing Illinois clothing now. More of the current and incoming freshman in high school will be the ones that love Illinois basketball because they loved watching them play. It's the same thing with the older players now that grew up watching other teams do well," Smith said.
Ms. Smith is a Jazz fan for obvious reasons, but you can tell by her passion and the fact that she still talks with Coach Weber that she will always have a soft spot in her heart for the Illini faithful. So many times when people reach a certain status like her son has, it's easy to forget where you come from. Denise Smith is a first class lady and treats people the same today as she did five years ago.
The next Utah Jazz game you witness maybe you can hear her letting her son know she's there. When Deron is shooting a free throw she'll whistle as loud as she can so he can hear her. I listened for it and sure enough, you can hear her from time to time. The Jazz are down in this series, but far from out. Maybe Deron can work that same kind of magic he worked in perhaps the comeback game of all time (Arizona vs. Illinois). Who knows – we all saw it happen.