Williams leaving Arizona after 2 years
Derrick Williams helped Arizona finish off its rebuilding project with a spectacular sophomore season, boosting his draft status in the process.
Now it's time to see what he can do in the NBA.
Considered a potential lottery pick, Williams declared for the NBA draft on Wednesday and will sign with an agent, ending two impressive seasons that helped turned Arizona's program around.
''After careful consideration and with the support of my family and coach (Sean) Miller, I have decided to declare for the 2011 NBA Draft,'' Williams said. ''I have enjoyed my two years at Arizona both on and off the court. I want to thank my teammates, who are like brothers to me, my coaches and all Wildcat fans for making my experience an unforgettable one.''
Williams was well down the recruiting radar coming out of high school in Southern California, not even the highest-rated prospect in Miller's initial recruiting class.
The 6-foot-8 forward turned out to be a steal for the Wildcats, a multidimensional player who could shoot inside, finish at the rim with both hands and had a knack for making big plays late in games.
He leaves Tucson with a place among some of best to ever play at tradition-rich Arizona and with the program headed in the right direction after three chaotic seasons.
''Today is a great day for Derrick Williams and for Arizona basketball,'' Miller said. ''Derrick is a special player and rightfully should be considered to be one of the all-time great Wildcats. As good of a player as he is, he is an even better person.''
Williams was the Pac-10's freshman of the year in the 2009-10 season, which ended with the Wildcats missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 25 years.
He worked to get Arizona back to the bracket with a skill-building offseason and was nearly unstoppable once the ball went up for real, averaging 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 59 percent to lead the Wildcats into the West Regional final in the NCAA tournament.
Williams had some of his biggest moments late in the season, swatting away a last-second shot to preserve a win against Washington, making another game-saving block in the NCAA tournament opener against Memphis, then scoring on a late three-point play to lift Arizona over Texas the next round.
He racked up the awards along the way: Pac-10 player of the year, Wooden Award finalist, second-team All-American.
Williams said he will finish the spring semester at Arizona and plans to finish his degree in the future.
''We are all excited to follow his journey to the NBA, and I have no doubt he will be very successful as an NBA player,'' Miller said. ''We wish him all the best and know that he will be a part of our basketball family forever.''