SLAM: Tell us why we’re here, and what Under Armour has in store for us this year?
Derrick Williams: We’re all here because us four guys—Greivis, myself, Kemba and Brandon—because Brandon has a shoe launching in a week and we’re all here to support him and Under Armour in general. The company’s made a big jump in the last year. That’s why myself and Kemba signed this year, because we’ve seen the progress that they’ve done in the last year or so. We’re all here for one reason, and that’s just to make this brand bigger than what it is right now. Eventually it will be, and that’s our job, so hopefully we can fulfill that.
SLAM: We heard you have your own shoe in the works, too. How much input have you had?
DW: Yeah, it’s coming along. It’s not out yet, but it’s coming along. They’re constantly hitting me up at least three or four times a week, like if they’ve come up with anything new. We’re always communicating, and I think that’s what you need in a company. It’s about quality not quantity, and we have it. We have good quality people here working as a team.
SLAM: You got drafted, then signed to Under Armour, now you have your own shoe being developed. All this and you’ve yet to play one NBA game. What’s it been like?
DW: It’s been a crazy experience. Even with the lockout, I’ve been to Baltimore to see UA headquarters, to see what they do with the shoes and how they make them, how they design them, everything in general with the shoe. Really it’s just put the stamp on why I signed with Under Armour. All the things that they do and how hard they work, they do because they want their brand to be that much better than everybody else. To have a company like that, it stands out.
SLAM: At one point you said you like UA because they’re “under the radar,” not unlike yourself. Do you still feel that way? How do you get onto the radar?
DW: Yeah, I still feel that way. A lot of people are doubting, or still don’t’ even know I was the No. 2 pick. I think that I have a lot of people that doubt me still, and it’s really up to me to prove them wrong, just like I did at Arizona. And I feel like this company, it’s kind of like Arizona, how they were at they were at their best before at Arizona, then they kind of fell off a little bit, and then kind of came back. I feel like that’s what I’m trying to do with this company—get to the top.
SLAM: Well, you’re not going to be under the radar anymore, since you were the No. 2 pick and now you’re one of the four faces of UA basketball. Are you ready for that?
DW: Yeah, yeah. Brandon’s told us a whole bunch of stories about what’s gone on over the past couple years that he’s been in the NBA, and what he’s done with Under Armour. All that stuff excites all of us. We’re ready for that challenge, to get out there and show the world what Under Armour has to offer.
SLAM: Has it been good to have Brandon around to show you the ropes?
DW: You always want that older guy that’s had a couple years in the league, he can really show you things, even just by the way he works out. This season will basically tell me how much harder I need to work out even though I’m working out hard right now. That’s basically what he’s been telling us.
SLAM: If this lockout persists, where will we see you next?
DW: I haven’t canceled anything out yet, as far as overseas type stuff. I’m just waiting on a couple more weeks here. They say they met today, so I’m just taking it day by day. Hopefully things work out and I don’t have to go anywhere, I can just play here and everybody’s dreams will come true this season.
SLAM: First of all, talk about what it’s like to be on the Under Armour team.
Greivis Vasquez: This is great, man. This is fun. I’m thankful, I’m happy. Supporting this campaign will just get us out there. People hear us coming, we’re coming up, we’re doing the right things and working hard. To me, it’s a privilege, because I never thought I was going to have all this; my shoes, my logo, hanging out with Brandon Jennings, Kemba Walker, DWill, it’s fun.
SLAM: So you’re excited about the direction of the company?
GV: We’re doing great, and for me, like I said, I’m thankful, because they’ve been supporting me since my college days. And they supported my national team [Venezuala]. In two weeks, we’re going to film my commercial. I wasn’t here for the first commercials because I was playing with my national team for the summer. I’m going to come out with my shoes, too. So I’m excited about it, it’s fun.
SLAM: Was Under Armour a natural fit coming from the University of Maryland?
GV: There was no hesitation. I want to be a different guy, I want to wear something different, I want something different on my feet that separates me from everybody else. Under Armour has done such a good job separating itself from the other brands, so that’s wassup.
SLAM: Talk about your shoe, what we can expect from it.
GV: The shoe represents my work ethic. Obviously, it’s always going to have my country’s flag because I do it for my country, it motivates me. Also there’s my logo, Memphis colors, my national team colors. I like to be colorful. It’s gonna be pretty tight, man, I’m excited about it.
SLAM: Three or four years ago, could you ever imagine having all this happen for you?
GV: I can’t even believe it, no. Every time someone interviews me, I tell them look, I never thought this was going to happen. Everybody doubted that I’d be in the NBA, nobody thought I was going to be the ACC Player of the Year, win the Bob Cousy Award, all that stuff. But it happened, it’s all hard work. I’m going to continue to be humble, because I’ve got a lot of stuff to prove and a lot of stuff to learn. My rookie year I played 13 minutes a game, that’s huge. And not only that, but on a good team. We almost, almost went to the conference finals, which was huge.
SLAM: What have you been up to during the lockout?
GV: I played with my national team, so I was there for four months, just finished like two or three weeks ago. I got like a week or two weeks off, and now I’m back in the gym working out. Soon, I’m going back to Venezuela, and if the lockout continues I’ll probably play in Venezuela, that’s my plan.
SLAM: Gary Williams just retired from coaching at UMD—what kind of impact did he have on you?
GV: It’s hard man, it’s difficult. I’ve been back to Maryland, and it’s different. I’m not used to not seeing Coach Williams, I’m not used to not going to the office and saying ‘Hello, how you doin’ coach?’ But I support him no matter what, so hopefully over the next couple days I’ll get a chance to have lunch with him, because I miss him and we’ve got to talk.
SLAM: What do you hope to talk to him about?
GV: Just about life, about the NBA, college. He wasn’t only a great coach, he was like a stepfather to me, a best friend. He’s part of my success.