Early Lute recruit calls Turkey stint ‘great experience’
1984 Pac-10 rebounding leader Pete Williams, now a juvenile probation officer, will be forever grateful he chose UA.
By JACK RICKARD
Lute Olson has had many recruiting coups in his 20 years as Arizona’s head basketball coach. Perhaps none was more important than one of his first, landing Pete Williams from San Antonio Junior College in California his first recruiting class.
Olson needed immediate help to make the Wildcats respectable after the disastrous year of coach Ben Lindsey. Williams and Eddie Smith, another JC addition, provided just that. In Olson’s second year, the two led Arizona to the NCAA playoffs.
Williams led UA in rebounding for two straight years. Despite being only 6 feet 7, he was the Pacific-10 Conference’s rebounding leader his first season, 1983-84, averaging 9.9 per game. He led UA in scoring as a junior and was the team’s shot-blocking leader two straight years.
“Throughout life you make decisions,” Williams said from his home in Chino Hills, Calif., recently. “If somebody asked me the best decision I had made in life, it was my decision to go to UA, without question.”
Williams, 39, is in his third year as a probation officer in San Bernardino County.
“I work with juvenile delinquents – murderers, rapists, the worst,” Williams said. “It’s mind-boggling. You wear so many different hats – father, brother, counselor, safety officer.
“Sometimes you have a good day when a hard-core gangbanger breaks down and cries. When somebody finally sees the light, it’s awesome. It’s an unbelievable feeling. But those are few and far between. Most days they just don’t get it, and it’s frustrating.”
Williams was a fourth-round draft choice of the Denver Nuggets. He played a year and a half in the NBA.
“When I look back on it, my only regret is that I didn’t stay long enough to get a pension,” Williams said. “But I chose to go to Europe, and it was a great experience.”
Williams played 10 years in Turkey and one in Japan.
“Turkey was beautiful,” he said. “I had a great career over there.”
Known as a finicky eater during his UA days, Williams said he “survived” in Turkey.
“They have a lot of lamb, and you can always eat chicken,” he said. “I did a lot of my own cooking and did well.”
He retired in May 1999 at the age of 35 after a decade of earning solid paychecks.
“That’s what I’m most proud of,” he said. “I’ve been able to provide my family with a nice home in a nice area. My kids go to great schools. My family is taken care of.”
He and his wife, Carla, have three children, Eris, 11; Mark, 6; and Jade, 18 months.
“My kids are Arizona fanatics,” Williams said. “They love UA. And Arizona athletics, you can’t believe the pride I have in that school.”
Williams and former teammate John Edgar, who lives two doors away, usually get together to watch the Wildcats on television.
“It’s like having your own brother as a next-door neighbor,” Williams said.
At UA, Williams was a big-time jumper whose slam-dunks were spectacular.
“I’ll be 40 in July, and I can still run and jump,” he said. “I don’t know how high I could jump. I don’t believe in measuring. Some days you can go higher than others. I was blessed.”
WILLIAMS’ UA CAREER
PHOTO CAPTION: Tucson Citizen file photo
Arizona center Pete Williams, at 6 feet 7 inches, often went up against much taller opponents, such as Oregon 7-footer Blair Rasmussen.