It’s been a busy few months for Timberwolves rookie Derrick Williams. First was the draft, then on Wednesday, Under Armour announced that they had signed Williams, their second big signing from the 2011 draft class following the signing of Kemba Walker earlier this month. They’ve been busy too.
We spoke with the 6-foot-9 forward shortly after the deal was announced and despite having to make a whirlwind of phone calls and phone interviews, Williams was game to talk shoes, hoops and even the dreaded L-word.
When talking about the lockout, his otherwise upbeat tone changed immediately to one of disappointment as he explained the situation that draftees from this year’s class are facing and then gave his take on potentially losing a season:
“If they told me I was going to miss all 82 games next season I would have stayed in college and enjoyed myself and enjoyed all of my teammates and everybody else who is involved with Arizona. I definitely would have went back.”
Williams spoke about the thrill of signing with a company and of sharing the moment with his friends and family and then talked about what he’s most excited for next season, whenever that may be.
Despite the damper of the lockout, things are pretty good in his world. Here’s more with Derrick Williams.
TBJ: How has this whole process been for you? It’s been a busy period for you. Predraft, to the draft, to signing with Under Armour.
DW: It’s similar to going from high school to college and just going through that whole process again. It is really similar. You have all of these companies wanting to wear their product and it’s up to you. I felt like, like I told Arizona, I felt like this was the best fit and the best company for myself and my family.
TBJ: What was it about Under Armour that made you feel like it was the right fit for you, your personality and your game?
DW: I think that they made it clear for me that they wanted me the most. They had the most interest in me. They wanted me to be a part of their company, to jumpstart it like Kemba made the jump, like Brandon did. I felt like they wanted me the most out of any company. I felt like that commitment that Arizona gave to me, I felt like that was the commitment that Under Armour was going to give me. Overall, it just felt like it was the best fit for me.
TBJ: How does it feel to know that you’re going to be a face of the brand with Brandon and Kemba?
DW: I think it’s a good feeling. There are only a few people, obviously they have a bigger football five, but like they made the jump, like Tom Brady made the jump, they felt like this was the best fit for them. I felt like if I have a couple of people that really believe in the product and that want to take it to the next level, I’m all for it. Like Kemba did, he gave me a few reasons why he did and we basically had the same reasons so I felt like this was the best fit.
TBJ: Brandon [Jennings] and Kemba [Walker] are both known for being undersized and small, flashy guards. How do you feel about bringing a different dimension to the Under Armour basketball brand?
DW: Like you said, they have the more flashy, like to drive to the basket, be a little bit more flashy point guards. What I bring to the table is scoring and explosiveness. I feel like a lot of people like to see dunks and want to see great players and I feel like I can bring that to the table. I can use that to my advantage. Use that to have a lot of other people start buying the product, I feel like if every year we make a big jump, year after year, I feel like by the time I’m done playing, it’s going to be one of the top companies in the world. I really believe that and they only want people who do believe that so I feel like I’m a good fit for the company.
TBJ: Could you have imagined when you had first seen the Under Armour shoes a few years ago that you would be a face of that brand a few years later?
DW: I didn’t think of anything like that, of any kind of shoe deal. Out of high school I wasn’t one of the top 100 in my recruiting class so I really wasn’t thinking about any shoe deal or anything like that. Just to have this opportunity is great. To have a company want me to wear their shoes and their clothes, it’s a great feeling.
TBJ: What has it been like for your family and friends to have watched everything happen so fast for you?
DW: You know, I talk to them basically every day and they tell me every day, “You really are the #2 pick in the draft,” and I don’t think it still really picked me or any of my friends or my family right yet. This really does just top it off. You want all of these companies to sign with you and you pick Under Armour. You’re sponsored by a big-time company and when I actually get on the tv screen ,I don’t think anybody is going to believe it because it’s happened so fast. It’s big for me, but it’s big for my family and friends as well.
TBJ: How have you been spending your offseason thus far?
DW: Since the draft, I’m still working out, doing everything I would do if there wasn’t a lockout. I want to stay in the best possible shape that I can so that whenever that lockout does end I’ll be ready to contribute right away. As long as I keep my body in shape and keep playing basketball five days a week, I’ll be in the best possible shape.
TBJ: Have you gotten to spend any time with your new ‘Wolves teammates?
DW: After the draft, we had like four or five days to play and they brought in about 10 of the 14 players I guess, to work out. I worked out with Beasley and Wes Johnson and Ricky Rubio. I worked out with basically everyone on the team.
TBJ: What do you think about Ricky [Rubio]? It’s been fun to watch the hype that surrounded him when he came to Minnesota earlier this offseason.
DW: He’s a great player. All of the stuff you see on YouTube, going between his legs, throwing the ball between his legs, he really does all of that. I didn’t think, seeing YouTubes, you really don’t think that’s how someone plays, but he really does play like that and he’s good at it, it works and it’s going to work this year.
TBJ: How do you differentiate yourself from the other big men on your team?
DW: I think I can drive to the basket, I can shoot a little better than most people think. If people don’t think you can do things, I try to prove them wrong. I just try to work a little harder than the next player. That’s how I got here. I’m not going to stop until I reach all of the goals I want, until I stop playing basketball. Whenever that is, I just want to be the best possible player and the way I want to be the best possible player is to keep working hard, striving for the best.
TBJ: Who are you most excited to play against next season?
DW: Probably about three players. I grew up watching Kobe, LeBron and D-Wade. Carmelo Anthony. Those guys right there. Four years ago, their posters were on my wall. I had all of their jerseys all of their shoes. I think it’s going to be crazy just to think a couple of years ago their posters were on my wall and I was looking up to them and now we’re on the same court and we’ll have kids looking up to us the way that I was looking up to them. It’s a big jump and playing against the best players in the world is what’s going to bring out the best in me. It’s a good feeling and I’m still a big fan of all of them, but it’s a good feeling.
TBJ: You’ve watched basketball your entire life. What are a few of your favorite games or performances as a fan?
DW: A couple. Kobe had 81 against the Raptors. That’s one of the best games I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like that. Everything went in. Another one was when LeBron played the Pistons and I think he had like 30 straight points, that’s another one. And probably when Tracy McGrady scored the 13 points in 36 seconds or something. That was crazy. And to top it off, he hits the game winner. Those type of games, they have a spark and give you that fire to be a lot better than you are right now. Those type of games are always great for the fans.”
TBJ: Do you have any mentors in the league or people that you go to for advice?
DW: There’s a lot of people. Arizona has the most NBA players in the league since like ’88 or something like that. I talk to a lot of the Arizona guys, especially Luke Walton. Just ask them for advice, whether it be about workouts or practices or how games go or just how the lockout is. Just little questions like that, I’m always asking. Luke Walton’s been there, he’s on the Lakers, he’s used to winning. He’s been in a winning program since high school, just try to get that little advice form the people who win championships basically every year. He went to Arizona, so that’s a good plus.
TBJ: Any advice that has stood out to you, or words that you live by?
DW: Just whenever you’re tired, I’ve heard it a lot, but whenever you’re tired there’s always somebody else in the gym, right now. There’s a lot of other players, as I’m speaking right now (laughs), in the gym getting better. There’s always going to be someone trying to take my spot. To prevent that from happening it all depends on what I do.
TBJ: How tough is it right now for everyone who has been drafted, this has been your first taste of NBA life and you don’t know when you’ll get your first games. Obviously, you can’t control that, but is it tough when you don’t know when things will pick up and start again?
DW: I think it is. Especially for the second round people. I really feel like the worst case scenario is there is no basketball this season, we don’t play any games. I really will feel so bad for everybody that entered the draft, that came from college. All everybody wants to do is just play basketball and it’s something that we can’t control. I guarantee you 95 percent of the people that entered the draft would have stayed in college if there were no games and I would have been one of those people. I think that being able to play on the highest level and being the number two pick is the greatest feeling in the world so far for me, but at the same time if we can’t play basketball, it’s a setback. Hopefully it gets resolved really fast.
TBJ: So you would have stayed if someone said you have to wait a year for games?
DW: Yeah. If they told me I was going to miss all 82 games next season I would have stayed in college and enjoyed myself and enjoyed all of my teammates and everybody else who is involved with Arizona. I definitely would have went back.
TBJ: I’m with you. I’m praying for a resolution soon as well. Finally, what would you like us to know about you as a person that we might not know?
DW: I don’t have that much fire off the court I’m just really chill and I joke around all day. I always have a smile and stuff like that. On the court is the only time I’m aggressive so I think that’s why people like me. I think that a lot of people just act the way that they do on the court when they’re off the court and I don’t think that at all .I think that a lot of people want to see the real person off the court and that’s me. Just laid-back, always trying to have fun and just joke around with everybody that knows me.
TBJ: So, it’s a good day in your world today?
DW: Yeah, (laughs) I’m just at home, watching tv.