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Utah Jazz: D-Will scores several assists at Salt Lake school

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 10 2008 12:08 a.m. MDT

Rebecca Lund, right, listens to Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams read a book to her class at the Carmen B. Pingree Center for Children With Autism in Salt Lake City on Tuesday afternoon.

Courtney Sargent, Deseret News

A young schoolboy approached Deron Williams while the Utah Jazz point guard was taking a tour of the Carmen B. Pingree Center for Children With Autism on Tuesday afternoon. He didn't, however, say hi or ask for an autograph like some kids his age might have.

"This is a school, not a sports center," the boy said to the tall visitor who was wearing a baseball cap, basketball shoes and gym shorts.

Williams laughed and was hardly bothered that the boy didn't know (or maybe care) that he is an NBA star. They then chatted for a minute about sea monsters and other important stuff.

The Olympic gold medalist also read Dr. Seuss books, helped preschool-age kids measure themselves on a growth chart, goofed off a bit on the playground, shook hands and greeted autistic students by name while he was briefed about the Valley Mental Health-sponsored program.

Williams wanted to take a tour of the center, located down the street from the University of Utah, because it is one of the charities that will benefit from the second-annual Deron Williams Celebrity Golf Classic that he'll host on Sept. 22 at Thanksgiving Point.

"It was just good to come and see the kids and get a chance to interact with them," Williams said. "One of my cousins also has autism, so I'm very familiar with the (developmental disorder) and how much it's affecting people today.

"Anything you can do to help — regardless if you know somebody with it — it still feels good and it's still for a good cause."

A father of two, Williams had fun interacting with the children. When a girl with curly hair stepped up to the 6-foot-high growth chart, where he helped the teacher mark the kids' height, Williams joked: "Should I measure your hair, too?" He later had to pick the girl up so she could put her hand on top of his head to mark his height with a rocket cutout. The 6-foot- 3 Williams, by the way, was off the chart.

A moment later, Williams volunteered to read "The Ear Book" and "The Nose Book" to the 10 children.

"They're fun kids to be around, great kids, very energetic, very loving," Williams said. "We all had a blast."

Pete Nicholas, the center's director, appreciated how friendly Williams treated the students, even though most had no clue who he was.

"He was laughing and having a great time. We ought to hire him as one of our aides here," Nicholas said. "It's phenomenal to have somebody of his stature want to help out the school with development and growth."


E-mail: jody@desnews.com

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