Derrick Williams had his final press conference as a college basketball player on Wednesday. He talked about his draft projections, the potential lockout and finishing school.
There was one thing he didn’t say that he should have:
That’s how a short-timer does it.
How does Williams’ two-year career rank among the Arizona Wildcats’ other NBA draft early entrants?
This isn’t an attempt to discuss the sports morality of going pro early. I don’t know who had what mouths to feed, or who couldn’t keep his grades up, or who wasn’t enjoying his coaches, teammates or being broke.
It also isn’t about individual awards, stats or records. My fan currency is championships. What did you help your team win?
I didn’t include the guys who left after their junior season because in this day and age a three-year player may as well be a fifth-year senior.
In reverse order of achievement, here’s how the UA’s youngest NBA draftees stack up:
#6 – Jerryd Bayless, 2008 freshman
Freshman year: 7th place in the Pac-10, one win in the conference tournament (in the 7-10 play-in game) and a loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Arizona’s only one-and-done to date was a part of the Cats’ lowest Pac-10 finish in 25 years, first losing conference record in 24 years, and lowest win total in 21 years. Not the way to build a legacy.
For the record, I don’t have a problem with one-and-done as a concept. If the rules say you can get paid after one year and you’re good enough to get paid, so be it. Just do something in the one before you’re done. Carmelo Anthony going pro? Let me give you a ride to the airport. Kyrie Irving? Maybe you should stick around and for another 11 games.
#5 – Marcus Williams, 2007 sophomore
Freshman year: 4th in the Pac-10 and one win each in the Pac and NCAA tournaments.
Sophomore year: 3rd in the Pac-10 and a complete oh-fer in the postseason.
In addition to the team’s poor showing, this one was strange in that no one was heartbroken when Williams left because everyone wanted Chase Budinger to take over as the starting small forward. It’s hard to be remembered when they’re trying to forget you before you’ve left.
#4 – Andre Iguodala, 2004 sophomore
Freshman year: Pac-10 champs (17-1 record), first-round loss in the Pac-10 tournament but made the Elite Eight.
Sophomore year: 3rd in the Pac-10, one win at Staples Center and a first-round loss in the NCAAs.
Iguodala’s win resume is built on the 2003 season but he wasn’t a starter on that team. Seniors Jason Gardner, Luke Walton and Rick Anderson led the way with help from stars-in-training Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye.
2004 was Iguodala’s year to shine but the triple-doubles don’t make up for spending his final semester sending out “Will you draft me? Check Yes or No” cards.
#3 – Derrick Williams, 2011 sophomore
Freshman year: 4th in the Pac-10, first-round loss in the Pac-10 tournament, no national tourney of any kind.
Sophomore year: Pac-10 champs, two Pac-10 tournament wins and the Elite Eight.
Major bonus points for being The Man on his final team. Thirty wins and a highlight reel that stretches to Sierra Vista are a great way to build memories.
#2 – Gilbert Arenas, 2001 sophomore
Freshman year: Pac-10 champs, one win in the NCAA tournament.
Sophomore year: 2nd in the Pac-10 and the NCAA championship game.
Four Wildcats were drafted after the 2001 Final Four run but Arenas was the only underclassman. UA fans have every right to believe if he was 100% healthy he would have been the difference in the title game against Duke.
#1 – Mike Bibby, 1998 sophomore
Freshman year: National Champions.
Sophomore year: Pac-10 champs (17-1 record) and the Elite Eight.
The ’98 season ended in disappointment but the Cats could’ve gone 0-31 that year and Bibby would still be at the top of this list. When you play a key part on the team that achieves your school’s most prized athletic accomplishment, you live forever.
It’s interesting that Derrick Williams and Mike Bibby have similar individual resumes. Both were the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year followed by a sophomore campaign that included winning the Pac-10, going to the Elite Eight, taking home the Pac-10 Player of the Year award and being named a consensus All-American.
The gargantuan difference is in Williams’ freshman year the Cats missed the tournament for the first time in 26 years while in Bibby’s first season he cut down a bunch of nets.
No Wildcat fan is going to hold that against Derrick Williams though. He will be remembered as the player who helped make Arizona Basketball matter again…
Even after Sean Miller finds his Mike Bibby.
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