Ex-Terp Williams proves royally versatile as a King


When NBA scouts assessed the merits of Maryland's Walt Williams before the 1992 NBA draft, his basketball versatility was high on their checklist.

But the Sacramento Kings, who made the 6-foot-8 swingman the seventh overall selection last June, are carrying things to the extreme. In his first pro games, Williams found himself matched for several minutes defensively against a pair of 7-footers, San Antonio Spurs All-NBA center David Robinson and the Los Angeles Lakers' Vlade Divac.

"I kind of enjoyed it," Williams said with a laugh over the phone yesterday before playing against the visiting Washington Bullets. "Since I've been here, I've played all five positions at one time or another. But I just enjoy playing and helping fill in for anyone who needs a rest."

Before last night, Williams had started only one of 14 games, but still found time to average 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists. And, typically, the former Terps standout has not been intimidated whether asked to defend a Robinson, Kevin Johnson or Shawn Kemp.

"I've never been intimidated by anything in my whole life, so why should I start being scared now?" said the native of Temple Hills.

"A lot of people think the Kings are putting a lot of pressure on me as a rookie," he said, "but for me, this is like a dream come true. Just the thought of being asked by Coach [Garry] St. Jean to do a lot of different things is great.

Williams, 22, missed all of training camp before he, and his agent, former Maryland All-American Len Elmore, agreed to a six-year deal worth $13.5 million. But he had already made a highly favorable impression on St. Jean by agreeing to participate in the Kings' July minicamp without a contract.

"I have nothing but positive things to say about Walt," said St. Jean, 50. "What I like most about him is his extreme confidence. He's not afraid to take a big shot or try to make a difficult pass. He seems to thrive on pressure."

On draft day, Williams, who had broken the late Len Bias' one-year record by scoring 776 points his senior year at Maryland, was the obvious favorite of the fans following the selection process at the Capital Centre. When the Bullets passed over him in favor of North Carolina State forward Tom Gugliotta, the choice was greeted by a cascade of boos.

But Williams has great empathy for Gugliotta, his former Atlantic Coast Conference rival.

"The thing that sticks out in my mind is we both had to overcome the same difficulties in college," Williams said. "Neither one of us had much notoriety coming out of high school or were hotly recruited.

Asked if he found it difficult to be labeled a major building block for a franchise that has failed to make the playoffs since 1985, Williams said, "I know what it is to go through tough times. At Maryland, it seemed like we were always rebuilding."

He admitted he gave serious thought to leaving Maryland after it was placed on NCAA probation for infractions leveled against then-coach Bob Wade.

"It was a difficult decision, but I was truly happy playing at Maryland," Williams said. "Why mess with happiness?"

Now the future is looking even brighter in Sacramento, with Williams joining proven, young pros Mitch Richmond, Lionel Simmons and Wayman Tisdale.

"I know this team hasn't won much lately, but all I see is the potential," he said.

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