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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Five things you may not know about Arizona’s Derrick Williams

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — If the NCAA tournament needs a new star now that Jimmer mania has finally subsided, consider Saturday's West Regional title game in Anaheim an audition for the role.

That's where Arizona's Derrick Williams and Connecticut's Kemba Walker will square off to try to carry their teams to the Final Four.

You know all about Williams' rise from an under-the-radar prospect and Walker's penchant for late-game heroics. Click here for five little-known facts or colorful anecdotes about Walker that you may not have heard before and read on for five about Williams:

1. Williams could have played with Walker

When USC released Williams from his letter of intent after Tim Floyd resigned amid scandal in June 2009, one of the first schools to inquire about the forward was Connecticut.

"He was an athlete, he competed, he was long and he had skills," coach Jim Calhoun said. "So he really wasn't a hard evaluation. He was hard to get."

Indeed Williams didn't show much interest in Connecticut, visiting only Memphis and Arizona before making his decision. He said Friday that being overlooked much of his high school career made him reluctant to give much attention to too many schools that hardly recruited him originally.

"Leading up to when I committed (to USC), I didn't really have any other offers from high-majors, and then as soon as I decommitted, everybody else started calling," Williams said. "I did the same thing the schools did to me. I didn't focus on them. I only focused on the schools I really liked." {YSP:MORE}

2. Williams maintains a friendship with Tim Floyd

Even though Williams never played for former USC coach Tim Floyd, they remain surprisingly close. It's a relationship that Williams says stems from Floyd having faith in him when few other college coaches would offer him a scholarship.

"When I was committed to USC, Floyd said, 'One day you're going to be a great player. You've just got to keep working,'" Williams recalled.  "He was the first person to tell me that other than my family and my friends. I really took a lot from what he said. He's helped me a lot since then."

Floyd's resignation obviously benefited Arizona since it paved the way for the arrival of Williams, Solomon Hill and MoMo Jones, but Williams says he thinks his career would have turned out well either way.

"I think I'd have had the same success at USC that I've had here because of how hard I work," he said. "He did do Arizona a big favor."

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3. More famous than Jennie Finch?

Although Williams may soon become La Mirada High's first NBA player in more than three decades, the sophomore admits he probably won't be the most famous athlete the Los Angeles-area school has produced.

For now, that honor still belongs to Jennie Finch, the Olympic gold medal-winning softball pitcher.

"Hopefully we can win this title and have a little argument about that," Williams said.

4. We talking 'bout practice?

Williams may be shooting 60.3 percent from behind the arc, but there's no plans for Arizona to run more plays to get him long-distance looks.

In reality, he's the Wildcats' seventh-best 3-point shooter in practice, behind Solomon Hill, MoMo Jones, Kevin Parrom, Kyle Fogg, Brendan Lavender and Jamelle Horne.

"That's a sore subject right there," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "If you watch this guy shoot in practice, you would be shocked at the percentage he shoots in games. I know he's threatening Steve Kerr's record and that would be the greatest upset in NCAA statistics, if that happens."

Williams' rebuttal? He has none.

"I just have a different attitude whenever the game shows up," he said. "It kind of sounds bad, but I'm not really a practice player. I just get in that mode whenever the game starts coming. Whenever I have my head phones on, I get in that zone."

5. The next Michael Beasley

If Williams had to compare himself to any current NBA players, his best picks would be hybrid forwards Michael Beasley, David West and Antawn Jamison.

Will Williams play more small forward or power forward in the NBA? That's a point of contention.

"I like when people say 3-4 more than a 4-3," Williams said. "A 4-3, most people think you're 6-foot-10, 250 pounds. Being 6-8, 6-9 and 240, it gives me a real advantage, especially if I play the 3. I don't like being labeled a power forward at all."

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