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http://www.suntimes.com/output/bulls/cst-spt-bull28.html

He was the one sitting in the middle of the main table. He was the one putting the microphone in front of Jerry Krause. He was the one daring to mention a world championship.

Jay Williams met the Chicago media Thursday for the first time since officially becoming a member of the Bulls during Wednesday's draft, and he made a good impression.

But beneath the charming smile is a monster competitor and leader.

''Jay has a big edge to him,'' Bulls coach Bill Cartwright said. ''He has a nice attitude.

''He wanted to throw you [media] guys out the day he was in for a workout, so that let you know he's ready to go.''

Williams was flanked by second-round picks Roger Mason Jr., from Virginia, and Lonny Baxter, from Maryland. The three ACC players are familiar with each other and know what to expect.

''Jason Williams has been the best point guard in college for three years,'' Baxter said. ''He's tough, and he does everything a point guard is supposed to do.

''I still remember that one game when he scored 10 points in about 30 seconds to bring them back and tie the game. We went into overtime and lost. That alone tells you a lot about him. He's a great player.''

And Williams, 20, won't be afraid to exert some leadership next season, even as a rookie.

''That depends on [Cartwright],'' Williams said with a smile. ''I really look forward to being part of this team, and meeting [captain] Jalen Rose. He's been in this league for a while, and I want to learn under him.

''At the same time, I know if the ball's going to be in my hands, the leadership role is something I'm going to have to do. I know Coach wants me to push the ball, so I know I'll be directing traffic and telling guys where to go so I can get them the ball.''

Williams had one of his best games last season against Baxter's national championship squad, with 34 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals as Duke won 99-78 on Jan. 17. Baxter scored 24 points that night, and he scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds on Feb. 17 as the Terps won 87-73.

Baxter, who was picked 44th, wasn't the highest-profile player on his team, but the 6-8, 260-pound power forward was one of the toughest, and he has a strong chance to make the Bulls despite his draft status.

''Lonny is a beast down low,'' Williams said. ''I played with one of the biggest guys in the ACC in Carlos Boozer, and every time we played Maryland, Carlos would say, 'I have to guard Lonny again.' He works hard and finishes out each play.''

Baxter and Mason grew up about 10 minutes from each other in Silver Springs, Md. They met shortly after Mason's father, a doctor, passed away from a kidney ailment. That was shortly before they began their freshman year of high school, and that's when Mason added 'junior' to his name.

''The best thing about Roger is he's very determined,'' Williams said. ''Defensively, we tried to put a lot of different people on him, and he's very determined to win and to score a lot.

''From guarding him for the last couple of years, he's a hard guy to stop. He knows how to use screens well, and he's smart.''

Mason scored 22 points on Feb. 28 to lead the Cavaliers to an 87-84 upset of Duke. That avenged a Jan. 27 loss to Duke, which featured a 27-point performance by Williams.

''These guys all come from big-time programs, and they've played in pressure games,'' Cartwright said.

The pressure's only going to intensify on the next level. But Williams isn't afraid to aim high.

<b>''The goal is to win the world title, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get it done,'' he said. ''I know my teammates and the organization feel the same way.''</b>

They better.
 
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