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Derrick Williams Update: Exclusive Interview with Lionel Benjamin

La Mirada's Derrick Williams could visit Gonzaga in the very near future.  Can Gonzaga land their seventh 2009 commit?
La Mirada's Derrick Williams could visit Gonzaga in the very near future. Can Gonzaga land their seventh 2009 commit?

When Tim Floyd announced his resignation at the University of Southern Cal, shock waves were felt throughout the college basketball world.  One area his departure affected was 2009 recruiting.  USC had one of the most promising 2009 recruiting classes in the nation before Floyd's exit and now it has all but vanished.  One such decommitment from USC is Derrick Williams.  Williams, listed as a 6'7'', 210 pound forward, was a late bloomer in the 2009 class but is now attracting all sorts of attention.  He is visiting Memphis as we speak and will also visit Arizona but has one last visit to take.  One school vying for that last visit is Gonzaga and we were lucky enough to check in with Derrick's AAU coach who has been a key figure guiding him during this difficult process.

The Slipper Still Fits: What were the reasons behind Derrick originally committing to USC, and was it strictly the coaching change that led to his decommitment, or were there other factors?

Lionel Benjamin:  One of the main factors for his initial commitment was because he really wanted to stay on the West Coast and the relationship that he built with Tim Floyd during high school.  Floyd really took Derrick's recruitment on his own, whereas most had assistants handle it, and people were probably shocked that Floyd wanted Derrick as much as he did and that meant a lot to Derrick.  It was just a different standpoint then most schools took and he became very close to them during the process.  They formed a very good connection and Floyd was very understanding and supportive of him and just a good guy and coach.

The main reason for the decommitment was because he wanted to play for Floyd and all the investigation and stuff like that going on.  He hung with USC  as long as possible but he was there for Floyd and it was discouraging because they had a top five class before Floyd left  and once that happened, all the other recruits jumped ship and that was really tough.

TSSF:  How do you think Derrick's game transfers to the next level? Is he more of a small forward on the perimeter, or a post up power forward at the collegiate level, or will he play both?

LB:  He is what is now known as a hybrid four.  He's more of a three-four, than a four-three.  I say that because he's not really a post up type player but can post up when there is a match up problem.  He causes problems because, at his size, he can put the ball on the floor and he can defend anyone on the floor.  He is quick enough to guard a point guard and has the size to go defend in the paint.  Especially on the high school level he causes a match up problem because most players that are that size play down low but he is most skilled on the wing.  He's like a Rashard Lewis type player where he can shoot, defend and post up at will.  You can't really pigeon hole him because he can do a lot of things like start the break it just depends what the school wants from him.

A lot of schools like Gonzaga are recruiting him like an Austin Daye type guy.  I've talked with Mark Few and Coach Giacoletti on and off during the season and they want him like that especially with Austin leaving so early it surprised a lot of people and now they are looking for someone to fill Austin's big shoes.  It's crunch time right now and every school is going hard.  They all feel he is going to fill the void they need and I think he can fill it at a place like Gonzaga.

TSSF:  With Derrick visiting Memphis currently, and Arizona later this week, it seems that those two schools are in the lead for Derrick. Would you say this is true?

LB:  No.  To be honest it is completely wide open.  A lot of people picture it that way since he chose those two schools first but with Derrick it is all about the level of comfort.  There is no order right now.  Usually kids make a statement with the order they choose but he is not new to the situation being that it is his second time and it doesn't matter where he goes first and where he goes last.   The difficult thing is with the LA schools getting out so late he has to make a quicker choice because of his visits.  The first time around he was very committed to being on the West Coast but now that he has opened it up a little bit he has a broad range of schools going after him.  With only three visits and 40 schools calling him now it makes it difficult for him to narrow it down in such a short amount of time.  We've narrowed it significantly but it has been tougher than he expected to figure out his third visit.  He gets back from Memphis and we are going to try and schedule his third visit hopefully today.

As far as his third visit goes, major contenders are Gonzaga, ASU, UConn, Miami, Mizzou, Marquette and it just keeps going to be honest.  But those are the ones he is considerably thinking about but I'm going to try and pick his brain today about it.  He's a great kid so it's hard for him to say no to someone but it has to be done.  We've got to get him narrowed down and squared away so he can get going and maybe do summer school and that kind of stuff.  But I leave it open to him and give him feedback and if we disagree we talk it out and express our point of view and figure it all out.

TSSF:  What type of offensive system do you think Derrick would fit in with best, and of the schools recruiting him, which do you think is the best fit for him?

LB:  He really needs to be in and up and down quick pace tempo.  He's very good in the open floor, and some schools want to play the four-out, one-in situation where you have four guards in at one time and that is something that would really benefit him.  Most schools present that opportunity and those schools fit his game at some point so no one really stands out because all schools looking at him want to run. I'm not saying he can't play in a structured, play-calling offense but he is so good in the open floor that he can run the break and kick it and do it all.  Most schools are looking at him because he is such a match up problem and he does so many things well.  With him decommiting he became one of the best players out there right now.

TSSF:  It seems that Derrick really blossomed during his senior year of high school. What improvements do you think he made, and where would you like to see him continue to improve?

LB:  I've known Derrick for a long time and he is like my little brother.  His game has grown every year in high school.  He's gotten taller and has gotten better and better.  Our AAU team, sponsored by Lamar Odom, had Jordan Hamilton, a top recruit going to Texas, and that overshadowed Derrick a bit because he was getting most of the attention in the summer.  With Derrick, people kind of slept on him because of Jordan's accolades.  But with him taking off in his senior season he wanted to make a statement and he got tired of being underrated especially when he was dominating a lot of games and not getting the recognition.  So what he started to do and something I encouraged was for him to go out there and try to prove a point and make a statement. The schools that really knew him and offered him know what he is and that all the attention he gets is well-deserved.