Citizen Staff Writer
I was going to write about how Marcus Williams is leaving Arizona, and no one shed a tear.
Until his mother did.
Gayle Williams was in town from Seattle on Thursday when her son held a news conference to announce his plans to enter the NBA draft.
When all the talking was done, Gayle, a single mom who still cherishes the memories of simple moments talking to her son as they drove home from youth basketball games, stood in a hallway in McKale Center and wiped her eyes.
It put a human touch to the end of Williams’ time at Arizona and, for me, drowned out much of the chatter, often tinged with uncensored bitterness, directed toward the sophomore forward.
As a byproduct of two largely unhappy basketball seasons and his perceived attitude problems, Williams never developed into a fan favorite, despite earning all-Pac-10 honors as a sophomore.
Williams told me last year it was a big goal of his to “have a legacy in a basketball city, to always have your name remembered.”
He probably won’t be remembered terribly fondly in Tucson. For confirmation, check the comments on the Citizen’s online stories about Williams, or peruse your favorite UA sports message board.
Williams says goodbye. Fans say good riddance.
I think UA associate head coach Jim Rosborough said it best.
“We wish him well,” he said.
There’s not much else to do at this point.
Thursday was a good time for closure.
Williams talked about the support of his coaches and the family atmosphere of Arizona basketball.
Rosborough talked about Williams as a “good person” and a “smart kid” who was not only skilled offensively but perhaps underappreciated defensively.
With that out of the way, player and program can go their separate ways, and each party seems fine with that.
It wasn’t hard to read between the lines when head coach Lute Olson discussed Williams’ future late in the season. Olson typically said he would be shocked if Williams returned to school.
The between-the-lines part: If Williams was bolting to the NBA – ready or not – then Olson was going to double-lock the door behind him and move on, too.
On the court, I think Williams is a good player, not a great one. I wonder what his most marketable NBA skill is. His jump shot needs work. He needs to get physically stronger. It won’t be so easy in the NBA to score on the crafty near-the-basket moves he used so well in the Pac-10.
He’s the fourth UA sophomore to leave for the NBA draft, and the one with the most questions. He isn’t as talented as Mike Bibby, who was the No. 2 pick in the 1998 draft. He doesn’t have nearly the same kind of explosive athleticism as Andre Iguodala. He can’t score with the same élan as Gilbert Arenas.
I don’t know if Williams is a mid first-round pick, a late first-rounder or a second-rounder.
But he’s going to be fine.
He doesn’t even turn 21 until November, and it is clear he will make an envious pile of cash playing basketball – for somebody, somewhere – for many years.
The Wildcats will be just fine, too.
“The thing that is tough in a situation like this is you recruit young men and get them into the program, and you think they are going to be with you for four years,” Rosborough said.
It’s over after two.
As young Marcus heads out into the world, I hope he gets good advice, and heeds it. Works hard. Doesn’t squander whatever opportunities come his way.
Good luck, Marcus.
May you continue to make your mom proud.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail:
FANS SPEAK OUT
• I don’t blame you, Marcus (for leaving). But make some wise investments. You’ll be lucky if you’re still on an NBA roster in five years.
- MIKE H.
• Marcus will be a very successful pro in a system with a quality big man and a quality guard. UA fans will be looking at his banner hanging from McKale 20 years from now.
- TOM M.
• More readers’ comments, 2C