When Sean Miller discussed Arizona Wildcats signee Brandon Williams publicly for the first time, he mentioned the 2018 point guard recruit missed his junior season because of knee surgery, but reiterated that was not the result of an injury.
“That’s important to note,” Miller said in November. “He had more of a genetic thing with his leg that he was able to get fixed. To his family’s credit, he did at a time which is very smart. And he missed a lot of action. He wasn’t on the circuit this spring or summer.”
No further details were shared, but now we know what Miller was talking about.
Williams was experiencing pain in his right knee in the fall of 2016, which turned out to be osteochondritis dissecans, a joint condition in which bone underneath the cartilage of a joint dies due to lack of blood flow. He was forced to have season-ending surgery in January of 2017, which took away his junior season. More than 10 months of recovery and rehab generated frustration and, at times, self doubt.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be the same. I’d be lying if I said that never crossed my mind. I was ranked No. 14 in the nation before I got hurt,” Williams said. “Didn’t get to play summer ball like I planned, either. I started dropping in the rankings, saw other recruits get attention, and rehab wasn’t going well. I started to feel forgotten.”
Thankfully for Williams, Crepi Carmelite High School, and Arizona, he has regained his form after surgery, despite being sidelined nearly a year.
Williams is averaging 24.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.4 steals per game in 25 games as a senior, per MaxPreps — and those numbers are a bit deflated because he was on a minute-restriction early in the year. He’s only averaging 19 minutes per game.
Williams broke his high school’s scoring record in late January, pouring in 52 points in a win over Alemany.
Still, Williams is right when he said he’s dropped in the rankings because of the time he missed.. He now ranks 31st in 247Sports’ Composite Rankings — pretty far from No. 14.
Williams was also denied a spot on the McDonald’s All-American team, even though he, and Miller, believe he was worthy of one.
But that is insignificant compared to the health of Williams’ surgically-repaired knee which is doing all right by all indications.
Williams and Crespi are looking to win their third state championship in four years.
Williams did suffer some sort of ankle injury Friday that forced him to miss the second half of his high school game, and it required X-rays, but it’s not expected to be something that will keep him out long-term, if at all.
Can Arizona signee Brandon Williams (@TheeBWill) lead Crespi to third state championship in four years? ️ via @JGSports_6 of @CronkSportsLA | @CrespiAthletics | @APlayersProgram | #FOXPrepZone pic.twitter.com/iK4GRqpx2C— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) February 9, 2018
There are only 15 to 30 cases of osteochondritis dissecans per 100,000 people each year, so it is a rare condition, and the most notable athlete that’s had it is former Jets and Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
He entered the NFL in 2004 with the condition, and he did not miss a game in his first three seasons in the league. Then he suffered a season-ending knee injury seven games into the 2007 season, which was believed to be related to osteochondritis dissecans.
But it certainly did not derail Vilma’s career, as he underwent surgery and missed just one game in the next three seasons, making the Pro Bowl in two of them.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire