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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Derrick Williams helps down Phoenix Suns

Derrick Williams celebrates a win over the Duke Blue Devils March 24, 2011, in a NCAA West Regional game in the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Williams was selected as the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft on June 23, 2011, in Newark, NJ.

PHOENIX — Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Kevin Love sat in the US Airways Center visitor’s locker room, ice on his knees and a smile on his face after a 30-point night in a win against the Phoenix Suns.

Love just finished fielding questions from a trio of reporters about the Timberwolves’ bench unit that combined to score 52 of Minnesota’s 127 points.

As the three reporters wrapped up their interview session, another writer approached Love and asked about the play of rookie Derrick Williams, who had just scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.

Before answering the question Love stood and yelled to the three reporters exiting the locker room, “(expletive), I didn’t mention Derrick Williams guys. Put him in the paper.”

Derrick Williams was once again an afterthought. Even at the NBA level the 3-star recruit out of La Mirada High School didn’t get the proper recognition.

The No. 2 overall draft pick shot 7-for-10 from the field, made 2-of-3 triples, blocked two shots, collected two steals and committed zero turnovers, yet Love still forgot to mention the Arizona alumnus.

If the 20-year-old Williams continues his recent play, however, that will change soon enough. After struggling through the early stages of his rookie year, the light bulb is coming on for Williams.

“He’s played better recently, been more aggressive,” said Wolves head coach Rick Adelman, who’s been hard on Williams for his lack of aggression and consistency. “I think he’s starting to get a feel for what he has to do in the NBA to succeed. He’s much more consistent.”

The former Pac-10 Player of the Year has scored in double figures in seven of his last 10 games including a 22-point, 10-rebound outburst against the Lakers and a 27-point game on 9-for-10 shooting against the Clippers.

During that stretch Williams is averaging 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds while shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from three in 25.1 minutes per game.

“He played great for us. He really stepped up. He made big plays,” Love said of Williams’ game against the Suns. “He’s been great for us these last six, eight, 10 games. If he continues to play like this he’s going to be a really, really good player and only get better.”

On Monday night in US Airways Center, Williams was able to showcase that improved NBA game Love talked about in front of “40 or 50” of his friends who made the trip from Tucson.

But while racking up his third-highest scoring total of the season in front of his former college buddies was meaningful, it wasn’t his friends he wanted to make an impression on.

As Williams made his first trip to the free throw line after dropping in a 5-footer and drawing the foul with 8:26 left in the second quarter, an “ASU” chant arose from the crowd.

A group of students behind the basket heckled the former Wildcat, but as he did during his time in McKale Center, Williams drilled the free throw. After making the free toss Williams subtly put his finger to his mouth as if to hush the ASU haters.

On Williams’ next trip to the line, same ASU chant, same result.

“I heard a little ASU chant and I kept making my free throws and I just told them to be quiet a little bit,” Williams said with a smile. “It’s all fun and games man. I live off of that stuff man so it’s pretty fun.”

Williams, who wasn’t even an ESPN top 100 recruit out of high school, silenced the crowd Monday night in US Airways Center and continues to disprove those who doubted his jump shot, mobility or perimeter game.

Next time Williams has a big game in a Timberwolves win, maybe Love will remember to mention the former Arizona product to reporters, because as Williams heats up, the rest of the league is finally starting to take notice.

“He’s a really athletic guy. He’s shot the ball a little bit better than anticipated. He’s a terrific player,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said of Williams. “I think he’s going to be a very good player. I think getting stronger and being able to step out on the floor and shoot it consistently is a key but I don’t see that being a problem for him.”

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