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The Daily Wildcat

 

Williams’ decision smart

Michael+Ignatov+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AUniversity+of+Arizona+meets+UCLA+in+an+NCAA+mens+basketball+game+at+McKale+Center%2C+Tucson%2C+Ariz.%2C+March+4%2C+2010.+UCLA+up+39-29+at+the+half.
Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona meets UCLA in an NCAA men’s basketball game at McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz., March 4, 2010. UCLA up 39-29 at the half.

With the NBA Draft’s early entry deadline on Sunday, Arizona basketball freshman Derrick Williams has four days to declare for the league.

Arizona fans and coaches won’t breathe easily until the clock strikes midnight and the deadline has passed.

Just kidding.

Though the standout forward finished the season as a top-5 freshman nationally in the eyes of many, Williams said he wouldn’t run after the millions just yet.

It’s a shocker in this “”I’m-going-to-the-league generation”” in which we live.

Williams could easily use his potential and awards to politic his way into a first-round pick in June.

But instead, he realizes he isn’t quite ready to make the jump.

He realizes he played out of position as a freshman and would be an undersized big man in the NBA. He realizes that coming back to Arizona will give him an extra year to work himself into a small forward and be more NBA ready.

Of the Sporting News magazine freshman All-American first team, Williams is the only player of the five who didn’t declare for the draft.

Every college campus has those players — those who will never be good enough to be professionals or those who have potential but have to put in the work. They all swear they’re going to the league.

All they need is one person to tell them how good they are, and they’ll put their name in the draft.

If you ever wonder whether an athlete is in the I’m-going-to-the-league category, all you have to do is walk up to them on campus and ask them if they’re going to class.

If they stare you down, smacking their lips with a look of annoyance and say, “”I’m going to the league,”” then you can add them to the list.

After Butler’s Gordon Hayward hit the front of the rim in the NCAA Championship game, the “”I’m going to the league”” guys started their engines.

Over the last couple weeks, some of the guys who put their names in the draft will leave you shaking your head in disbelief.

You can understand why guys like Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall would leave early — it would be bad business if they didn’t.

But when you hear guys like Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton, or Oklahoma’s Tommy Mason-Griffin declaring for the draft, it’s just crazy.

Bledsoe couldn’t even learn to keep his composure for two straight games in the collegiate level. How is he going to handle it when Chris Paul and Deron Williams are making him look like a scrub on a nightly basis?

Mason-Griffin couldn’t even lead his team to the NCAA Tournament, and quite frankly, if you’re a one and done, that should be the minimum requirement to enter the draft.

At Arizona, Williams has more of a case to put his name in the draft than Orton, Bledsoe or Mason-Griffin. But he realizes there is still work to do.

And there is nothing wrong with guys leaving after one year, but those select few should dominate the game in that one year. See Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose.

It’s depressing to see freshmen and sophomores declare for the draft when they’re clearly not ready. It’s even more depressing when, at the end of draft night, the last pick is called and those same guys are left without a team, a la former USC big man Davon Jefferson.

Jefferson had a decent season with the Trojans his freshman year but listened to the hype, and made the mistake that cost him millions. Jefferson declared for the draft and didn’t get drafted. Now he’s being forgotten about somewhere in Israel.

At Arizona, Williams is a rare commodity in this generation in which players jump at the first hint that they’re NBA material. People will argue that Williams is unlike the other fabulous freshmen because he was only a three-star recruit and wasn’t pampered like the big names.

However, there are plenty of three-star recruits who would have left after a freshman season similar to Williams’.

It’s clear that he has the right people in his ear; he’s not listening to the people who are saying, “”Hey man, you can get paid.””

Williams probably knows he’ll be in the NBA someday — the only difference is he’s going to class until he’s ready.

— Vincent Balistreri is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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