There’s Deron Williams (Illini, Nets) and Now Darrin Williams (UIC)

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With the start of the NBA season locked out, and the very real threat of losing many more games to the labor crisis, we haven’t had a chance to talk about New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams.

But we can talk Darrin Williams, the UIC Center named to the Horizon League preseason all-conference third team. And like Deron Williams, Darrin Williams has had a big impact on University of Illinois, as well as Chicago, college basketball. And Darrin often gets mistaken for Deron. If you google Darrin’s name, the search engine will ask if you meant to spell “Deron.”

You’ll also see many photos of the former University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign point guard in the results page when you do a Google image search for the University of Illinois at Chicago big man.

“I get that all the time,” Darrin said of being mistaken for Deron.

“Especially when we played Illinois at the United Center and they made a lot of jokes about the old Deron Williams versus the new Darrin Williams. A lot of people mistake me for him even though I don’t look like him.”

Darrin laughed about the comparisons quite a bit during the preseason basketball media luncheon, chuckling when I mention that they even share the same nickname of “D. Will.” However, Darrin is a big so his favorite player and NBA role model is Shaquille O’Neal, not Deron Williams.

Darrin played in 28 games, starting 20 last year, averaging 4.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game on 49.1% from the field. Darrin tipped in the game-winning bucket against their sister school Illinois (12/18/10), in that notable win over the Illini at the United Center. The 6-9, 269 lb senior from Louisville, Kentucky had nine points and six rebounds in that day.

“It was huge, it really did a lot for our program and recruiting, and also for me, it was amazing,” Williams said.

For the UIC Flames program, the win over the then 12th ranked Illini was epic. It tied for the highest ranked opponent ever beaten by UIC and it was their first win over Illinois since 1990-91. Despite the game being played just across the interstate highway from the Illinois-Chicago campus, the crowd overwhelmingly favored Illinois-Urbana-Champaign. Because Chicago is such a dominant Illini town, Deron Williams always gets a very warm reception when he returns to play against the Bulls in that very building.

And like Deron, Darrin also lost a lot of weight early in his career. Deron dropped the last of his “baby fat” as he slimmed down for the NBA Draft combine in 2005. Scouts were impressed by all the work he did to condition himself entering the draft, and he ended up being the highest pick in school history.

And Darrin lost 35 pounds this past offseason.

“The key was just dedication, watching what I eat and working hard. I was on campus working out all summer,” Darrin said.

Williams’ head coach Howard Moore is really impressed by all the work Darrin put in.

“Darrin took that and when you see him, he looks very different than from a year ago. He isn’t the kid that I kicked out of individuals because he couldn’t get through a couple lay-up drills and individual workouts. This kid has committed himself and dedicated himself to being the best he can be to helping our team be more successful this season,” Moore told the media at the preseason luncheon.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports.

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the FWAA, USBWA and SPJ. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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