Ray Richardson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports on Minnesota Timberwolves rookie forward Derrick Williams:
Before high school, Williams mostly played soccer, baseball and football in La Mirada’s city parks league. He didn’t take basketball seriously until his freshman year.
And when he did, it showed.
“I used to get calls at home at night from school staff people wondering why the gym lights were on after 9 o’clock and who was in there,” said former La Mirada boys basketball coach Larry Kaupang, who coached Williams during his varsity career. “It was Derrick. He and my assistant, Charlie Torres, used to sneak in there sometimes late at night to put in some work. And Derrick worked at it.”
Only 5-9 in eighth grade, Williams grew to 6-5 by the end of his freshman year. He had become too tall to play guard and needed to get used to playing closer to the basket. He also was playing for La Mirada, a small, unheralded school 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles. It took an in-the-right-place moment during Williams’ sophomore year to remove him from relative obscurity.
La Mirada had a game against Compton on Feb. 23, 2007. Compton, a traditional power in the Los Angeles area, featured guard-forward DeMar DeRozan, now a two-year pro with the Toronto Raptors.
Most of the college coaches in attendance were there to see DeRozan, a McDonald’s All-America selection. Williams wasn’t even in the starting lineup. Kaupang put Williams in the game, and he ended up with 23 points, 12 rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists.