MIAMI – Students from all over Miami-Dade County may have started school today, but two of the Miami Heat’s newest players have been in the classroom for about a month.
Derrick Walton Jr. and Matt Williams Jr. – along with fellow rookie Bam Adebayo – took part in the Heat’s ‘Back To School’ event this morning, distributing supplies to students at Jesse J. McCrary Jr. Elementary School. But since signing on July 24 these young players have been receiving their education in NBA 101 at the Heat’s facility where they are being taught by basketball professors Udonis Haslem, James Johnson, Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson among others.
“They’ve been pretty intense,” Williams said. “We do a lot of running, a lot of conditioning, a lot of shooting.
“In three or four weeks I’ve learned a lot.”
Walton, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Michigan who went undrafted this summer, is the first player in Heat history to sign a two-way deal. Williams, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Central Florida who also went undrafted, signed a deal that could be converted to a two-way contract.
Two-way contracts were added under the new collective-bargaining agreement that took effect on July 1 and allow for NBA teams to keep the rights to two players on their developmental league squads. Players under two-way contracts can spend up to 45 days with their NBA teams and the rest of the time must be spent with the NBA team’s G-League affiliate. Miami’s developmental affiliate is the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
The two players will be with the team when camp opens Sept. 26.
Walton, who is the only player in Michigan history to score at least 1,000 points, grab 500 rebounds and record 400 assists, says he is in a “unique” situation because of that contract.
“Being able to learn and grow my entire rookie year is all I’m focused on,” he said. “I’m in a unique situation but I’m in a unique situation as far as learning.”
Walton played in four summer league games for the Magic, where he averaged 10.0 points, 3.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game. He shot 46.9 percent from the field and 50 percent on 3 pointers.
The Heat then signed him.
“We had a mutual interest in joining each other and making something work out,” he said. “An opportunity presented itself.”
Walton will spend nearly the entire season with the Skyforce. And knowing the Heat’s reputation for developing players, Walton said he was told “just to be ready” when he enters camp.
“It’s been great,” Walton said about his first semester in Miami. “World class organization, great people, and we work. Pretty much everything I’m accustomed to.”
Williams set the UCF single-season school and conference records for 3-point field goals made (126) and set the Knights’ single-game record for 3-point field goals made (11).
But he’s looking to prove to the Heat he is more than a long-distance shooter.
“That’s big,” Williams said. “I’ve been working on that a lot. Coaches had me working on my ball handling, working on my conditioning, make sure I’m able to put the ball on the floor, make sure I’m able to go to the basket. Make sure I’m able to be a complete player.”
Williams was with the Heat during summer league but a sprained ankle prevented him from playing in Orlando. He returned to the court in Las Vegas and appeared in eight games, including six starts, and averaged 9.9 points while shooting 38 percent from the field and 39 percent on threes.
“I just wanted to go out and do what coach (Chris) Quinn asked me to do, shoot the ball when I’m open, play hard defense,” Williams said.