You learn a lot about who Derrick Williams is simply by reading his Twitter bio.
“Forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves but an Arizona Wildcat for life. Hated by many, wanted by plenty, disliked by some, confronted by none.” – @RealDWill7
There are myriad tags that can, and will, be prefixed to Williams’ name before his fledgling professional basketball career is said and done:
“Rookie.” “Veteran.” “All-Star.” “Super Star.” “Bust.” “Free agent.” “MVP.” “World Champ.” “Hall of Famer are among a few of the possibilities.”
Former Wildcat power forward Derrick Williams left Arizona this spring for the NBA. Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
Only time will tell, of course, which monikers will actually apply to the player affectionately known as “DWill.”
Williams’ place in Wildcat lore is set in stone…or marble…or Fathead wall poster. However the University wants to immortalize the power forward who led the Wildcats to a somewhat improbably Elite Eight run in the 2011 NCAA tournament.
But with only two years of classes under his belt in Tucson, does Williams earn the right to be called an “Arizona Alum?”
It’s time for an argument in semantics.
Technically speaking — according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary — an “alumnus” is anyone who has either graduated from an institution or is “a person who is a former member, employee, contributor or inmate.”
That’s right, inmate.
Case closed, right? Slammed shut like prison cell doors.
That’s not to suggest that Williams is some sort of jailbird in the making.
Those who have graduated — who have poured in the requisite four (perhaps five-plus) years of exams and homework into a school — might see their “alumnus” status differently and wish to be held divorced from the student who never turned their tassels or tossed a mortarboard.
Does one have to earn the “status” alumni?
Do athletes unjustly get slapped with the “alumni” tag because of their affiliation and contributions to a university?
Take the case of former Arizona student Kurt Busch.
Years before he became the first driver to win the inaugural ”Chase for the Cup — NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ equivalent of a world title – in 2004, Busch was a student at the University of Arizona.
He was your average scholar. Back then his checkered flag was a pharmacy degree.
After two years, however, the race track beckoned. In 2011 alone, he’s pulled in more than $4 million in winnings. Pretty easy decision in hindsight.
It’s the equivalent of Derrick Williams leaving school early for the pros — only the University of Arizona doesn’t have a varsity racing team.
No one will doubt Williams’ stature as an “alumnus.” Busch? Many do not even know he attended the UA, lest you read the school’s Wikipedia page.
Should Busch be considered an Arizona alumnus?
Is he on “honorary alumni” par with Williams or no more an alumni than the slacker student who exhausted his academic probations?
That’s not to suggest Busch was a poor student.
There seems to be a blurred line between alumni status and non-alums.
It appears we affix the word wherever it suits our purposes — antics rooted deep in unimportant semantics.
Wildcat basketball players who left the UA early for the pros:
Gilbert Arenas Jerryd Bayless
Mike Bibby Chase Budinger
Ben Davis Jordan Hill
Andre Iguodala Richard Jefferson
Brian Williams (Bison Dele) Derrick Williams
Marcus Williams Michael Wright