Last season, as BYU's Jimmer Fredette and UConn's Kemba Walker were becoming household names and Duke's Kyrie Irving was being touted as the next NBA star despite limited playing time, Arizona's Derrick Williams was quietly lighting up scoreboards and reaching near historic heights for efficiency in the process. Unheralded as a three-star recruit out of California's La Mirada High School, Williams had always seemed to slip through basketball's cracks, even after earning Pac-10 Player of the Year honors and leading the Wildcats to the 2011 regular-season conference title. But, as so often is the case, the NCAA tournament was a coming-out party. His block sealed Arizona's first-round victory against Memphis, and his late three-point play against Texas pushed the Wildcats into the Sweet 16. By the time Williams almost single-handedly dismantled Duke with 32 points (including 5-of-6 from three-point range) and 13 rebounds, everyone knew his name.
Now that scouts have seen his impressive range and athleticism, the 6-foot-8, 248-pound Williams is a likely top three pick in Thursday's NBA draft. He spoke recently with SI.com about turning pro after his sophomore season, drawing motivation from his mom's wisdom and finding a position in an NBA frontcourt.