Former University of Arizona star Derrick Williams – expected to be the first or second player taken in Thursday night’s 2011 NBA Draft – has signed an exclusive agreement to provide autographs and memorabilia to Panini America.
Williams, the 2011 Pac-10 Player of the Year, averaged 19.5 points per game as a sophomore last season and led the Wildcats into the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. He joins an impressive roster of exclusive athletes in the Panini family, including five-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, 2009 No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers and John Wall, last year’s No. 1 overall pick of the Washington Wizards.
“It’s every little kid’s dream to get that first NBA Rookie Card and that was no different for me,” Williams said. “Signing with the great team at Panini is a huge step in me realizing that dream. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for my basketball cards.”
As part of the exclusive agreement, Williams’ autographs and memorabilia will be found only in Panini products. He also will be featured on Panini packaging, and well as in Panini’s national advertising, marketing and social media initiatives. His first officially licensed NBA trading cards will be included in Panini’s 2011-12 NBA Prestige product.
Williams and his Panini America teammates will also be the faces of the company’s new Panini Authentic memorabilia division that launched in May.
“Derrick has been one of the most talked-about prospects in college basketball for years and his spectacular two-year career at Arizona showed the world why,” said Mark Warsop, CEO of Panini America. “We’re thrilled to have him join the Panini team and we’re excited to share his only licensed trading cards and memorabilia with a collecting world that has been awaiting his arrival.”
Panini America became the exclusive trading card partner of the NBA beginning with the 2009-10 season. The Panini Group purchased the industry’s second-oldest trading-card company, Donruss, in March 2009 and formed the new subsidiary, Panini America, Inc.