Rediscovering Marcus Williams
Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns read my recent Conversation with Marcus Williams with more interest than most. Prior to his work at Valley of the Suns, Michael covered Marcus while they were both students at the University of Arizona. Given that history, he provided us with this personal retrospective on Marcus Williams.
All Grown Up, Marcus Deserves His Shot at a Roster Spot
When I read Tim Varnerâ€™s in-depth conversation with Marcus Williams last week, one thought stuck with me above all the rest:Â Marcus has finally grown up. Heâ€™s faced two seasons worth of D-League action and the NBA telling him heâ€™s not good enough, and now heâ€™s at the point of his career where heâ€™s ready to be an NBA player.
Back in college, he didnâ€™t do any one thing exceptionally well, but he was exceptional at doing everything at least pretty well. You might be surprised to learn that with his unorthodox stroke and all, Williams was the only Wildcat Arizonaâ€™s Hall of Fame head coach Lute Olson gave a green light to on three-pointers during a freshman year in which he shot 43.5 percent from deep. I felt his versatility would transfer over to the NBA game, as he could guard multiple positions on defense and pass, shoot and dribble on offense. The only thing I worried about was his attitude.
Sophomore year from media day on he was a different player than he was as a freshman, according to my Arizona Daily Wildcat colleague who covered the team both years. He had a chip on his shoulder, almost as if he was above playing college basketball after he flirted with leaving school following his stellar freshman year. On the floor he still had a solid year as a sophomore, but mentally it seemed like Marcusâ€™ head had already left the Wildcats in favor of another League.Â When Marcus declared for the draft at the end of his sophomore year, he thought he was a no-brainer first-rounder.
â€œI think I wanted obviously to make sure I was going to be in the first round,â€ Williams said at his goodbye presser about why he decided to leave early. â€œThat was a big key for me. As long as I continue to work hard, thatâ€™s going to be a reality for me. I thought that was pretty key. If I can go in with a team where I have a chance to play at least, thatâ€™s going to be important.”
Williams must have been flabbergasted that he lasted until pick No. 33 of the second round in the 2007 draft, going to a loaded organization like the Spurs that hasnâ€™t given him a chance to play yet, unless you count the Austin Toros.Â What I admire most about Williams is that heâ€™s stuck it out for two long years, riding buses and taking cold showers in the D-League when lesser competitors would have headed for a payday in Europe.Â In Varnerâ€™s piece, Marcus said, â€œI donâ€™t think youâ€™ll ever have guys whoâ€™ll dream of playing D-League.â€ As a sophomore in college, Marcus Williams was the last guy who ever would have expected to even step foot into a D-League arena during his career. But the thing about Marcus is that heâ€™s addicted to basketball, D-League, C-League or The League. Heâ€™s a gym rat who absolutely loves the game, as Spurs fans will see this year.
Before his sophomore year in college, speaking of his summer, he said, â€œThatâ€™s the most important time, when no oneâ€™s looking at you. Thatâ€™s the time when youâ€™ve really got to work hard. That separates the people who get to play in Final Fours.â€ That quote basically defines Williamsâ€™ past two seasons. Itâ€™s essentially been a two-year summer away from the spotlight of major college or professional basketball. Except for Spurs fans like Tim who follow the D-League closely and a few curious Wildcat fans, nobody has paid an ounce of attention to Marcus Williams.
In that time heâ€™s devoured every inch of the Spursâ€™ playbook. He knows how to play the point guard position in that system, he knows how to be a wing and he knows how to defend multiple positions the Spurs way.Â Spurs fans may think of Marcus as the 12th man, an oversized third-string point guard who only should play when things are way out of hand, but donâ€™t be fooled. Marcus always could ball. Instead of playing his final two eligible years in college, he spent them in the Minors, and now it seems as if Marcus Williams is entering the NBA anew with the maturity of a man four years removed from high school.
Itâ€™s certainly debatable whether Marcus would have been better off staying in college all four years, but now with a comprehensive understanding of the Spursâ€™ system heâ€™s finally getting his chance to prove why he thought he was no-brainer first rounder to begin with.
Practically Marcusâ€™ Little Brother
When the Spurs and Nets get together and Marcus Williams and Nets rookie Terrence Williams share a tighter than usual embrace, itâ€™s not because theyâ€™re actually brothers. But the Williamsâ€™ did grow up together in the Seattle area, and Terrence actually moved in with Marcusâ€™ family at one point. Because of that Marcus considers Terrence like a little brother.Â Itâ€™s kind of funny that when the two players hooked up in college during the 2006-07 season, Marcus was a star and Terrence was unheralded considering the fact that Marcus ended up being a second-round pick while Terrence went in the lotto.