Draft Night Memories: Derrick Williams
Even a year later, the night seems as crystal clear in Derrick Williams’ mind as ever. On June 23, 2011, Williams realized his childhood dreams and took the next step in his basketball career all at the same time.
That night in Newark, N.J., Williams sat among family and friends in the Prudential Center’s green room. The standout from the University of Arizona, who in the NCAA tournament earlier that spring catapulted his draft potential into the top 5 while draining 32 points and knocking off top-seeded Duke, still had no idea where he would land.
His anticipation was through the roof.
“All my dreams really came true,” Williams said. “Even though it’s not over yet, everything we work for, I don’t even know the words to explain it. A lot of people don’t get the chance to experience it, and once you do, everything is just a relief.”
He finished his sophomore year at Arizona with 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while shooting 59.5 percent from the floor. He was the Pac 10 Conference Player of the Year and had the third highest single-season scoring total in school history.
Williams was selected second overall by the Timberwolves—right after Cleveland took eventual Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving.
He finished this season with 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, unleashed several memorable alley-oop and put-back dunks and ended up on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
But before he was electrifying Target Center crowds, he was making the rounds through pre-draft workouts and meetings with organizations, wondering where he would end up after that memorable June night in New Jersey.
“The anticipation of who’s getting picked, what team you’re going to, what city, what state you’re going to be in,” Williams said. “And most of the time it is a new experience. The whole thing, it was fun, just real fun.”
This year, Williams enters the upcoming season with a year of NBA service and doesn’t have the same anticipation he felt during the draft season. Still, the memory of that night remains.
“One year in the books already,” Williams said. “That night [was] something special that I’ll never forget.”