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Timberwolves rookie Derrick Williams enjoyed a meteoric rise to the NBA over two quick collegiate seasons. Williams, the 2010 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, was recruited as the country’s 72nd overall athlete in his high school class—including the 25th power forward.
By the time his University of Arizona career was over, he was the No. 2 overall pick by the Wolves in June’s NBA Draft.
“I didn’t start my first game at Arizona, but I started every game after that,” Williams joked on Wednesday. “I have a lot of faith in myself, and I’m just waiting my turn.”
Williams became a household name among Pac-10 enthusiasts last year. He scored 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game his sophomore year and also knocked down 56.8 percent of his 3-point attempts. All the while, he brought a spark to the Wildcats team on both ends of the court, leading them to a to a 30-8 record and a spot in the Elite Eight.
His breakout game might have been in the Sweet 16 against Duke, when he knocked down 11-of-16 shots for 32 points while snaring 13 rebounds as his Wildcats knocked off the defending national champions 93-77.
This season, the rookie sensation is coming into his own with the Timberwolves—though he has adapted to the deep rotation of talent coach Rick Adelman uses on a nightly basis. Williams, a 6-foot-8 power forward, waits patiently for his name to be called on the bench each night. When he hears it, he makes the most of his time on the floor.
Already this season Williams has connected with fellow rookie Ricky Rubio for highlight-reel alley-oops, including a reverse jam from Rubio that helped ignite the Target Center crowd en route to a win over San Antonio on Tuesday.
He’s averaging 18 minutes per game this season, putting up 7.2 points per contest and 4.6 rebounds per night.
Each game he’s finding ways to make an impact. Last night against Memphis, he brought the crowd’s energy back with an assist to Rubio, and he knocked down a 3-pointer that was part of Minnesota’s first-half comeback.
He posted a career-high 13 points against Oklahoma City on opening night, and his best rebounding game was his seven against Dallas on Sunday.
“I’ve learned a lot from the players on this team, especially (Kevin Love),” Williams said. “He plays hard on every possession—rebounds. A little bit from each player. That’s what it takes to be good, and that’s what I’ll continue to keep doing.”
All the while, Williams is continuing to work in practice, learn how to elevate his game and prepare for the moments he can help contribute.
“You never know, that’s why I have to stay ready,” Williams said. “I think that’s the good thing about our team. We have so many people that can play. It just helps out down the stretch. Everyone can come in and play good minutes.”
The Arizona product with the bright future brings a team-first approach.
“We’re doing whatever it takes for us to win so far,” Williams said. “Us young guys on this team are just trying to fill a role.”
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