The Arizona Republic’s Doug Haller landed a one-on-one interview with Arizona Wildcats sophomore Kevin Parrom this week.
You can read the full interview here (and, of course, we encourage you to do so), but here is an excerpt:
Q: A year ago at this time Arizona was 13-13 and it was becoming clear your NCAA Tournament streak was going to end. What’s changed?
A: “We’re more of a team. We have a lot chemistry. Guys know their roles. When they come in, they know what they have to do. And then, we just get Derrick the ball. I mean, he’s the most efficient player in college basketball right now. He either scores or he gets fouled and goes to the free throw line and scores. We work everything through him, and if they double-team him, then we have some great guards on our team like myself, Solomon Hill and Lamont Jones that can knock down shots.”
Q: Speaking of roles, you come off the bench even though your recent production suggests you should start. Do you mind that?
A: “I’m a basketball player. It doesn’t matter if I start or become a sixth man. Whatever role I have, that’s fine. I can come off the bench and give the team a great spark. It’s good to start, but I know my role and I think I’m doing a good job with it.”
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At midseason, Washington point guard Isaiah Thomas was the slight leader for Pac-10 Player of the Year honors. The Huskies were leading the Pac-10 at the time, but then hit a three-game losing streak.
As Arizona has risen to the top of the league, so too has sophomore Derrick Williams in the race for player of the year.
There are still four games to go, so the race isn’t over yet, but it’s looking good for Williams to be Arizona’s first Pac-10 Player of the Year since Jason Terry in the 1998-99 season.
“There’s less of a debate,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said of Williams’ status as the favorite for the award.
“I think the argument is really taken out of the conversation is we are able to finish strong. I really hope we can because Derrick has had just an amazing season. I mean, you start to put him in the category of all the great players who have played here, and he can be mentioned among them. That says it all right there.”
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Arizona, fresh off a successful “White Out” event at McKale Center last Saturday will run into a “Blue Out” at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday. UCLA officials are hoping for a sell-out.
That might not be realistic. UCLA is only fifth in the Pac-10 in attendance, averaging 7,475 fans at Pauley. That is barely ahead of Washington State’s average home attendance.
The closest the Bruins have been to a sold-out crowd was for the USC game earlier this month, when the school announced a crowd of 10,419 — 2,400 below capacity.
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Williams said he figures to get a negative reaction from fans at USC’s Galen Center. He had signed with the Trojans out of La Mirada High School, but he and MoMo Jones were released from their scholarships when Tim Floyd resigned under an NCAA investigation.
Those two, plus Solomon Hill, who had been committed to USC, ended up at Arizona in a recruiting sweep that shaved years off Miller’s rebuilding project.
“It really wasn’t too big,” Williams said of USC fans’ booing that trio last year. “I kind of expect it to a little bit more this year. But I’m not really going to focus on that.”
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Other reading from the TucsonCitizen.com Sports Network:
Steve Rivera: Revisiting previous Arizona-USC thrillers
Javier Morales: Arizona-USC matchup breakdown … and prediction
Victor Rodriguez: Arizona basketball returning to national prominence (with excerpts of an interview with CBS Sports’ Clark Kellogg on the “Victor and Matt Sports Podcast”).