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Roundtable: Impact of Brandon Williams’ injury

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  • Roundtable: Impact of Brandon Williams’ injury

    Roundtable: What is the impact of Brandon Williams’ injury for Arizona?

    By Brian Bennett and CJ Holmes 5h ago 2
    Arizona announced Wednesday evening that sophomore guard Brandon Williams will miss the entire 2019-2020 season after undergoing surgery on his right knee.

    Williams, who averaged 11.4 and 3.4 assists last season, has had persistent problems with that knee dating back to high school. He missed six games for the Wildcats and was limited in others last season with the knee issue.

    So we convened staff writer Brian Bennett and Arizona writer C.J. Holmes to discuss the significance of Williams’ injury and what it means for Arizona.

    Brian: To lead off, C.J., just how big of a loss is this for Arizona?

    C.J.: I definitely think it hurts the Wildcats in terms of scoring production on the perimeter. After sophomore guard Brandon Randolph left school for the NBA Draft, Williams was the team’s top returning scorer and expected to take another step forward in 2019. I think guys like Nico Mannion and Josh Green are more than capable of picking up the slack. But whenever you lose a guy like Williams, it certainly doesn’t make life any easier.

    Brian: This is obviously going to put a heavier burden on Mannion as the team’s primary ballhandler and playmaker. I was really impressed with him at Nike Hoop Summit and in other all-star settings. But he is just a freshman. Based on what you’ve heard this summer, how ready is Mannion to carry the load left by Williams’ injury?

    C.J.: Mannion is just a special player. He’s built for big moments. He’s always had his best performances under pressure. Yes, he’s just a freshman, but Mannion has consistently shown great maturity through his play, and I think he’ll be an impact player for the Wildcats from Day 1. His superior skillset will speak for itself.

    Brian: Williams isn’t a great shooter (31.6 percent on 3s as a freshman, 43.6 percent overall). But he did know how to get to the rim and the foul line. This is still a significant loss of point production on a team that struggled to put the ball in the basket last year. Where do the points come from beyond Mannion? Fellow five-star freshman wing Josh Green? Grad transfer Max Hazzard? Do the Wildcats have enough scoring punch, in your view?

    C.J.: I don’t think it’s unrealistic to assume that Mannion and Green will combine for around 30-35 points per game next season. Chase Jeter, who averaged 10.9 PPG last year, should be more effective in the paint with Mannion running the show. 6-foot-11 freshman forward Zeke Nnaji is going to surprise a lot of people with his production this season. Dylan Smith and Ira Lee will be solid as usual. Max Hazzard should provide Arizona with an efficient scoring option off the bench (shot 41.2 percent from the floor last season). If the Wildcats guard their asses off and play unselfish team basketball, I think they’ll be just fine.

    Brian: Sean Miller now has just 10 available scholarship players. Depth was an issue last season, especially when Jeter got hurt during Pac-12 play. How much of a concern do you think the bench will be this year, especially any time Mannion has to sit?

    C.J.: Depth will be a concern. I really hope those walk-on guys got in the gym this summer, because one or more of those players might see the floor this season if Arizona gets into foul trouble, or if injuries start to pile up. The Wildcats can certainly get it done with a 10-man rotation, but they don’t have much room for error.

    Brian: I had Arizona No. 1 in my way-too-early Pac-12 power rankings this spring. That was before Brandon Randolph stayed in the NBA draft, and now this news. I’d move the Wildcats behind Washington and USC and put them right there with Colorado on the second tier now. What do you think about the Wildcats’ outlook in the league pecking order without Williams?

    C.J.: Realistically, I do agree that Washington and USC will be battling at the top. Next tier will be Arizona, Colorado and Oregon. However, I do think the Pac-12 is wide open this year. There isn’t a single team that really stands out to me, so if the Wildcats still manage to win the league despite everything working against them, I wouldn’t be surprised.

    Brian: OK, let’s end on a positive note; it is still the preseason, after all. The past 18 months have been a pretty rough stretch for Arizona fans, except for Miller’s successes in recruiting. What are some reasons for optimism with this program right now?

    C.J.: It starts with Miller’s incredible 2019 class. Watching those guys play on the McKale Center floor this season will be a privilege. Four-star guard Dalen Terry is on the way in 2020, and he says he’s bringing other high-profile recruits with him. If Arizona can keep bringing in this steady flow of top talent and the NCAA investigation does not lead to crippling sanctions, then I think this program can return to college basketball glory sooner rather than later. These things take time. Patience is key.

    (Photo of Brandon Williams: Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


  • #2
    I hope Nico is ready to play at a very high level and for a lot of minutes because I think we are gonna be hurting with him on the bench,


    • #3
      Yup. This season runs through Nico at the point.

      Not really another option, except for the "committee" of Hazzard, Smith, Green, Doutrive, etc.

      We are deep at every other position. Hoping Mannion can be the face of the Miller Era as the sole PG of a championship team.


      • #4
        Most kids who sign on to a top university to hoop want to start - and to get lotsa playing time. Well, Nico has it now. Miller has no choice but to get the most out of him he can for the one year he's here. Our season depends on it.