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Look At Them Now: Derrick Williams

1/28/2011
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There was a time, a few short years ago in fact, when it appeared as if Derrick Williams was somewhat of an afterthought on the college basketball landscape.

Those days, however, are long gone.

Williams worked his way into the rotation at Arizona as freshman last season and the La Mirada High graduate has been a fixture in the lineup for the Wildcats ever since. His averages of 19 points and eight rebounds per game this season are indications of his worth.

Heading into Thursday night's Pac-10 Conference game against UCLA on ESPN2, the future appears to be bright for the 6-foot-8 sophomore. His upside is seemingly limitless at the Division I level, and perhaps beyond, something that could not be said a while back.

To gain a better understanding of just how far Williams has come, perhaps it is best to take a brief look back at how it all began. Right here in the Southland, of course.

He was not one of the more sought-after recruits from this neck of the woods during his senior season at La Mirada in 2009. Looking at his averages, 25 points and 12 rebounds a game for the Matadores, perhaps the powers that be should have paid more attention.

At the time, college coaches and most of the recruiting services were enamored with high-profile prep prospects such as John Wall, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins. Rightfully so, given the fact that each individual was taken in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft.

Williams, on the other hand, went out his business in a quiet manner. Back then, ESPNU ranked him as the nation's No. 25 power forward and No. 72 recruit overall. Then again, attempting to figure out how each player is going to perform down the road is not an exact science.

“We saw what Derrick was capable of doing on a daily basis back then, and as coaches, we remember that there were more than a few times when we would all look at each in awe after seeing him do some special things time after time,'' La Mirada coach Steve Schuster said.

Regardless of where his name was mentioned in the polls, USC was among the schools that expressed some interest in Williams. Initially, the Trojans received a commitment from him. But once Tim Floyd resigned amid allegations of NCAA violations, all bets were off.

Arizona stepped up its efforts to land Williams. And while Marquette and Memphis made a late push, he ultimately decided that the Wildcats were the best fit for him.

In retrospect, it was the best choice Williams could have made.

He averaged a team-high 15 points and seven rebounds a game in his debut with Arizona, and in the process, picked up Pac-10 Conference Freshman of the Year honors.

There has been little, or no, drop-off this season. Williams has taken the next step in his development, to be sure, and it appears as if his days in Tuscon could be numbered.

ESPN's Chad Ford believes that Williams is talented enough to play at the next level. He is ranked as the nation's No. 11 college prospect. Ford projects him to be the third small forward taken in the 2011 NBA Draft, provided Williams forgoes his junior year at Arizona.

Whether that happens, or not, remains to be seen. One thing is certain, his days of flying underneath the radar are done. Long gone. Williams has emerged as one of the country's premier college players. No turning back now, the Southern California kid is on the fast-track.

“We always knew Derrick was talented when we had him around here,'' Schuster said. “The thing was, the rest of the country didn't know much about him. All of that's changed now. He's exceeding people's expectations. Derrick is out there making a name for himself.''

TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS ON CHAPEL HILL

In his third year at North Carolina, Larry Drew II has seen his share of the good times, as well as the bad ones. Given the circumstances though, chances are the former Woodland Hills Taft High standout would not trade any of his experiences thus far.

As freshman, Drew II was around when the Tar Heels put together a rather remarkable postseason run and won the national title. As a sophomore, he was around when the Tar Heels surprisingly struggled and failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

As for his junior year, it's anyone's guess as to what the rest of the season has in store. Rest assured, the 6-2 point guard will be along for the ride either way.

Drew II has started in 17 of 19 games for North Carolina this season. His statistics aren't terribly flashy, 4.8 points, 3.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. But if he continues to average more than 23 minutes per night, those numbers figure to improve at some point.

FLORIDA STATE MAY HAVE A FIND IN SNAER

As a senior at Moreno Valley Rancho Verde High back in 2009, Michael Snaer appeared to have all the makings of one of those proverbial can't miss recruits. He had scholarship offers on the table from more than a few powerhouse programs, including Kansas and UCLA.

Somehow, someway, he ended up at Florida State.

Lucky Seminoles, there's no doubt about that fact.

Snaer hasn't lived up to the hype that once surrounded him, although he did show glimpses of immense potential as freshman. Since then, he has taken the next step. The sophomore guard opened this season as the starting shooting guard and has provided a spark that was previously missing for Florida State, which is ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Heading into Thursday night's Pac-10 Conference game against UCLA on ESPN2, the future appears to be bright for the 6-foot-8 sophomore. His upside is seemingly limitless at the Division I level, and perhaps beyond, something that could not be said a while back.