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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

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Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The No. 18 Arizona Wildcats hosted the Oregon State Beavers in a Pacific 10 Conference basketball game Thursday, March 3, 2011, in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. Arizona beat Oregon State 70-59.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The No. 18 Arizona Wildcats hosted the Oregon State Beavers in a Pacific 10 Conference basketball game Thursday, March 3, 2011, in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. Arizona beat Oregon State 70-59.

Forward Derrick Williams and head coach Sean Miller became the first player/coach combination at Arizona to win Pacific 10 Conference Player of the Year and Coach of the Year since Mike Bibby and Lute Olson won the awards in the 1998-99 season.

As Williams exited the media room in McKale Center on Monday, he was met at the door by Miller, who congratulated his star player before telling him, “”that’s what happens when you win championships.””

Miller won his second conference coach of the year honor, having won one in the Atlantic 10 Conference at Xavier.

“”I’m honored to be Coach of the Year, especially in the Pac-10,”” Miller said. “”It’s such a coaches’ conference. So many guys did a great job this year. To be named that means a lot.””

Olson, who won seven Pac-10 Coach of the Year awards, was the last Arizona coach to win, and Miller isn’t ready to put his name in the same sentence as the Hall of Fame coach.

“”I’m never going to compare myself to coach Olson,”” Miller said. “”He’s in the Hall of Fame.””

Miller, who took a team from a 16-15 record one year ago to its current 25-6 record, probably wouldn’t have won the award without Williams, who averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 61 percent from the field.

“”What he’s accomplished as a player in two years, he deserves to be put up there with the players that everybody associates Arizona with,”” Miller said of Williams.

Williams became the sixth player in Arizona history to win Pac-10 Player of the Year.

“”It’s a great honor to have my name up there with the other people that have won it before,”” Williams said. “”I think it’s a big accomplishment for me, as well as the team.””

Though Williams was considered a lock by most, he didn’t see it that way.

“”I didn’t just expect it,”” Williams said. “”Had a lot of hard work. They reward the player that has the best team.

“”I’m just the same person I was before,”” Williams added. “”I think that helps when you’re the same person. You don’t change through the whole process. You don’t become cocky. I don’t expect things to come right at me. I expect to just go get it, and that’s what I did.””

In a generation where kids think about reaching the NBA more than being a part of a good team, Miller thinks the way Williams has developed should be the blueprint for how young players follow their dreams.

“”It’s one of the things that make college basketball special,”” Miller said. “”Things can really change quickly. You have young players leave your program early for the NBA. You have more transfers now than ever before. You don’t have that continuity of four years that everybody (could) count on before, part of it is. It’s just a quest to go to college and become an NBA player as fast as you can.””

Williams, who wasn’t highly touted in high school, was never your typical prodigy. The forward was just 6-foot at the beginning of his freshman year at La Mirada High School. But after a growth spurt later that year, Williams, suddenly standing at 6-foot-6, could have transferred to his choice of prestigious Southern California high schools.

But he chose to stay at his original high school with his friends, planting the seeds for his humble career.

“”I just kept working hard every year to get better, to put my school on the map,”” Williams said. “”That was really the whole point of why I went there. I didn’t have to go to Westchester, Fairfax, Mater Dei to get seen, if you’re good enough you can go anywhere to get seen.””

Williams, unlike a lot of the top college players, has improved his NBA chances not just by his talent but by his team’s success.

“”Sometimes what an individual player doesn’t understand, the way great things happen individually is through winning,”” Miller said. “”The teams that win get the most honors, and that, to me, is the key ingredient to these guys getting to where they want to get to.””

That’s what Williams has done the entire season, prior to winning the Pac-10 Player of the Year award on Monday.

“”Derrick (Williams) is a great example of that,”” Miller said.

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