Derrick Williams met with the press Wednesday to discuss his future and answer questions on his time at Arizona and how he came to the decision.
How did the decision come about?
"It was a week, two-week process, maybe three week process, I don't know...I know we have a good team coming back next year with me on the team or not. If I were to stay, we would have a great chance to win a national championship, but at the same time, not too many people get this opportunity, to move on to the next level. I've been working so hard, since I was in high school, just to get to this point, and if you're supposedly a top-five pick, you can't really turn that down."
How have the reactions been since you made the decision?
"It's been relaxed. It's been relaxed and calm. All the Arizona fans are happy for me. Obviously, they'd want me to stay, but everybody's happy for me. Nothing but `thank you for everything, Derrick' and `you brought us back to the national spotlight'. The UA fans have been great since I've been here, and I wouldn't be anything without them."
Were you worried about receiving a negative reaction from your decision?
"I think they understand. If you're a real basketball fan, if you actually know the game of basketball, which a lot of U of A fans know, then they know what situation I'm in right now. If you have a chance to make money, and do something that you love, then hopefully one day I won't have to work. This is my job (now). I think they all understand."
More on the decision process:
"I pretty much made the decision on my own. Obviously, my mom wants me to finish my degree, finish school. I promised her that I'm going to get it done. I chose to go this route. I have a lot of work to do both on the court and in the classroom still. Obviously I'm still in class, just trying to finish off this semester strong, and hopefully get a chance to come back and finish my degree."
How were the talks with Coach Miller leading up to the decision?
"Just the pros and cons, really. We went over the pros and cons. If I were to stay, we would be a preseason top five, a national contender for the title. Obviously we made the Elite Eight this season, two points away from going to the Final Four. The cons of coming back, no one wants to think about getting hurt, and that's definitely not on my mind, but it crosses your mind at some point. Coming back and you have to chance to do what you love and go to the next level, and then get hurt. That's not the main focus, but just going over the pros and cons is what it really came down to."
On concerns about the potential lockout:
"At first it did. I heard it all through the season, even before I was supposedly a top-five pick. At the end of the day, a top-five pick is still going to be a top-five pick going on two, three years later. Just all the feedback I'm getting is that there's going to be a season next season. It might just be delayed a little bit."
On having a backup plan, just in case:
"Most likely, I would be here, finishing school ... At least trying to get some of my classes done. If the season doesn't start until January or February, why not come back here and finish a couple more months of classes. All the feedback I'm getting is that it's not going to last the whole season. If it is, then I'm just going to be here, working out with the people I came with. They all respect the decision I made. If they were in my place they would do the same thing -- every last one of them."
On plans to practice in the spring:
"I live in L.A., so I'll be home, around that area, most of the time, just catching up with family and friends. At the same time, you have to take business first, so I'll be working out more than anything while I'm at home. That's what I've been doing since I've made my decision, just going home, working out, and coming back to finish school."
On playing injured for most of the latter half of the season:
"Our trainer, Justin (Kokoskie), has really been helping me through this the whole season. I probably played about fifteen games with a broken finger on my shooting hand. It really bothered me, especially the first couple games, if I remember right, starting when I broke it against UCLA. I think against USC I made three threes, and I was pretty surprised, playing with three fingers. He's really helped me, rehabbing it the whole time. After practice, before practice, after shooting workouts, and just keeping it under wraps really. Most people just thought I had a sprained finger, but it was broken. I think it really helps me, the draft stock, saying that I was basically playing with a cast on my hand -- just using my left hand whenever I could, except for shooting threes and free throws. Being able to use both hands during the season, for a good part of the season, I think really helped my draft stock."
On the decision to play the game after breaking his finger:
"I weighed the pros and cons, too. The game was on Thursday and we played on Saturday, so I actually did tell the coaches that I wasn't going to play until Saturday morning. I told Coach (Miller) I was going to play no matter what. I wasn't going to sit out. I just told him, and obviously there was a risk to that, if I broke it again or made it worse, but I just wanted to go out there with my teammates and win as many games as possible."
Would the injury cost him more games if it was worse than it was?
"It could have cost me the rest of the season actually, the way it was broken. If I cracked it a half inch lower, I would have had to have surgery. There's a risk to that, but it didn't affect me. If I had to sit out, I would sit out, but I wasn't going to sit out if there was no reason. I just wanted to continue to play with my teammates for as long as I could."
On not making it public that his finger was broken:
"I think that if you tell people that you're injured, then people on the other team go after your injuries more, like intentionally slapping my hand when I'd go up for a shot, or something like that. I was just trying to keep it under wraps, trying to keep as much padding on it as possible. Playing with three fingers, obviously there was something wrong."
On the speculation of what he can do when he gets to the NBA:
"I'm not going to say I'm going to average 20 and eight like I did this season, but I think I can contribute. I'm not the most athletic player in the nation, and I can't jump out of the gym, but I can jump. I can shoot. I can basically do everything that any good player can do."
On what position he could see himself playing in the NBA:
"It really doesn't matter. I would like to play the three. I think a lot of teams need a 6'9" player that can shoot, dribble, drive, pick and pop. Not too many people have the foot speed I do with my size. I just take whatever I have and use it against people, like I did this season. If I had a bigger person guarding me, I would drive right by them, get the contact or finish at the end. I'm just going to shoot it, like I did this season. I proved I can shoot, dribble.
More on the decision:
"I think that everybody wants to win a national championship, but it's not guaranteed, as you can tell with Duke this season. They lost one player from last year's team, and a lot of their players came back to win a national championship, but it's not guaranteed. If I knew, twelve months from now, that we were going to win a national championship, of course I would stay. It's not guaranteed. I might not be able to play tomorrow. It's not guaranteed."
Did you seek advice from any former Wildcats who are currently playing professionally?
"Yeah, especially Luke Walton. I talked to him, texted him a few times, and talked with him in person a few times. I went over the pros and cons with him as well. He told me it was the best time of his life when he was here, and I believed him. The two years I was here were the best of my life too. Just talking to him, and what he went through, and what he's going through now, it was the best decision for me to go with what I decided. If you're top five, then there's really no reason to go back unless you really believe you can win a national championship. I do believe that. We could win it next year if I stayed, but like I said, it's not guaranteed. I also heard from Steve Kerr, and a few others. I think it's good to not hear from too many people, to not have too many people in your ear. Everybody has their advice, but I think a lot of them were just giving me space to make my own decision. Steve gave me some very good advice, some of the best because he's been there, and been on a winning team, a championship team in the NBA. He knows what it takes on the next level and even past that (as a general manager). He has a lot of insight on what's happening, and next season, and just giving me his opinion throughout the whole process."
On finding an agent:
"I don't have an agent yet, haven't made a decision on that yet. I have no timetable. There are a lot of good agents out there. I don't take any phone calls about agents right now, like I didn't during the season, which is why I played so well. I changed my number a few times so I wouldn't have to deal with that. That's probably a piece of advice I would tell other people, the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. I think that's why I played so well. I didn't have anybody on the outside world trying to talk to me, or convince me to do things. I just went out there and played. It's just going to be meeting with people. I haven't started that yet, other than one. I just talked to him and just have to meet with a few people, my family."
Is it weird to be going off to the real world at such a young age?
"That's the crazy thing. I'm only 19 years old. I turn 20 next month. I'll still be one of the youngest guys in the draft. It's pretty crazy, I think, coming from La Mirada. Two years ago, I was nowhere near being drafted, or even getting a DI scholarship, but I think that's what made me work so much harder, competing every day and trying to prove people wrong."
What are you going to take away the most from your time here?
"It's not about the individual awards. I'll trade every single one for a national championship. Being first team All American, second team, Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, stuff like that, is all great, but I think the highlight of my career here was the Pac-10 title, and getting it for the first time in six years. And all the support of the fans, especially for Jamelle Horne's last season. Just staying there and congratulating us, especially when we ran through the crowd. I think that was one of the best moments, and the white-out game too. That was a pretty great feeling. I'm glad we won that game, and the way we won it, was really what topped it off."
How does it feel to be known as one of the best players in Arizona history?
"It makes me feel great. To be with those people, my name with Kerr and (Gilbert) Arenas and all the people that played here. It's a great feeling. I don't think anyone thought I would be this good at this point in time. I'll probably one of the top five people that most people like, I think. I think that's what people like about me the most, my personality. I don't turn down pictures, autographs, I don't turn down any of that. That's really it."
On thinking about the upcoming change in lifestyle:
"When you have a chance to make a couple million dollars, it's a great feeling. My life is going to change, just like everybody else's would if they had that much money. Personal space is going to go away a little bit, and that's what I like the most, my personal space, but that just comes with it. If you're a professional athlete, you just have to deal with it and keep moving on."
On what his first purchase would be:
"I've been thinking about that for a while. I'd probably say a car. My mom doesn't want to move, so I'd probably just fix up the house. Whatever she wants, she can have in it. I'll buy her a car if she wants. I owe her a lot. Money doesn't bring happiness, but I'd touch a few things up."
On his outlook changing over the last two years:
"I don't think I've changed at all. I am the same person I was when I did my first interview, when I got here. I've matured a lot, since I've been here. Just being on my own, starting to have my own responsibilities, what I have to do, whether it's at school or on the basketball court, not being out late, stuff like that, I think I have matured a lot. I hope I keep maturing, especially on the next level, I'll have to. It's not all fun and games. It's more of a business now. It's your job and you have to treat it like it's your job. At this level, if you're late, you miss a game, and at the next level, if you're late, you get fined money. I don't think anybody wants to lose money in this world. I think that's it really, just trying to be more mature at this level."
Are you thinking about the lottery?
"I think it could effect the position I go in, what number the ping pong balls drop, but I really don't care which team I go to. All I want to do is play. I want the season to start already. Nobody wants to work out all day with no games and continue to work out, over and over. I think everybody, especially people who didn't make the playoffs this season; they want to get back to the gym already, even though they have more time off than a college player does. I know a lot of them want to get back in the gym. They want to keep getting better and make it to the playoffs next season."
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