Ex-UA basketball player keeps busy during lockout

By Patrick Finley

Arizona Daily Star

Published: Saturday, July 16 2011 2:05 a.m. MDT

Former University of Arizona basetball player NBA draft pick Derrick Williams signs autographs at the Nic Wise Basketball Camp in Tucson, Ariz., on Thursday, July 14, 2011. Williams, along with a handful of other former and current Arizona basketball players talked to students about themselves and being basketball players.

Arizona Daily Star, David Sanders, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

TUCSON, Ariz. — The NBA locked out, Derrick Williams returned to Tucson, where — when he's not being the most famous person in each of his two UA summer school classes — he can play basketball and work out.

"I'm not really sitting around," he said. "If there wasn't a lockout, I'd be doing the same thing I'm doing right now.

"Just working out as much as I can, trying to stay in shape, just trying to stay healthy."

Williams was selected No. 2 overall by Minnesota last month but cannot sign a contract with the Timberwolves until labor peace is reached. He has yet to sign a shoe endorsement deal. But he's already experiencing a new level of fame.

"I wouldn't say it's changed too much — I just think everyone's watching a little bit closer," he said. "You always have an eye on you, no matter what you're doing.

"One little mistake can hurt your career, stuff like that."

Williams had more than 60 pairs of little eyes on him Thursday, when he appeared on the last day of former teammate Nic Wise's four-day youth basketball camp at Northwest Center.

He took questions from campers and — along with Arizona Wildcats Solomon Hill, Brendon Lavender, Dondre Wise and former player Jamelle Horne — signed autographs.

"A lot of kids showed up, so it shows the kind of love and appreciation the city of Tucson has for me and the Arizona Wildcats as well," said Nic Wise. He also said Thursday he would not return to Telekom Baskets Bonn in Germany next season.

Williams cannot participate in the NBA's summer league because of the lockout but said he could end up at the Tucson Summer Pro League for an impromptu game.

"I can do anything I want to, as long as I'm not gonna get hurt and stuff like that," he said. "I'm still out here playing pickup games and stuff like that."

The forward said he was "glad I went No. 2," in part because of the team awaiting him. Williams will team with newcomer Ricky Rubio of Spain to play alongside forwards Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson, among others.

"That was a good situation," he said. "We're the youngest team in the league now. That's a good thing to look forward to."

Williams compared Minnesota - which fired coach Kurt Rambis this week - to the team he joined at McKale Center.

"I think it's kinda like the same thing (as) here, my freshman year," he said. "We had a new coach, a new system.

"I think it's going to take a couple years for everybody to get used to each other."

He likened the Timberwolves to the Oklahoma City Thunder, which went 20-62 as the Seattle SuperSonics in 2007-08 but lost in the conference finals this season after a steady three-season climb.

"It's going to take a couple years to get on the winning track, winning record, stuff like that," Williams said. "I think everybody has a lot of chemistry, and it helps.

"Especially for being a young team, everybody knows each other. Everybody likes to do the same thing.

"I think it's really going to help in the long run."

Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com

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