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Brandon Williams finding his ‘groove’ midway through freshman season

brandon-williams-arizona-wildcats-shooting-college-basketball-pac-12-freshman Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

A little more than halfway through his first season of college basketball, Brandon Williams’ numbers aren’t nearly as good as those of some of the Arizona Wildcats’ recent freshmen starters. They could be by the end of the year, though, if Williams continues on the path he’s been on the last five games.

At 11.9 points per game, Williams’ scoring average is seventh-most among Arizona freshmen during Sean Miller’s 10-year tenure. His shooting percentage, currently at 38.3, isn’t in the top 20 of Miller-coached freshmen.

But while the 6-foot-2 guard’s overall numbers don’t match up with his first-year Wildcat predecessors, his recent play indicates Williams has turned a corner with his offensive game.

“I’m starting to find my groove now,” Williams said Wednesday. “Ever since the Bay Area, I think I made that next step.”

Williams is Arizona’s leading scorer in Pac-12 play, at 13.8 points per game, and in league action he’s shooting 48.1 percent overall and 47.4 percent from three-point range (compared to 31.4 percent for the season). Take away the opener against Colorado, in which he was 6 of 17 from the field and missed all four three-point tries, Williams is shooting 54.3 percent overall and 60 percent from deep.

Did he suddenly become more accurate? Nope, just more persnickety.

“I’m just trying to take smarter shots, shots that I’m capable of making,” he said. “We’re rolling right now, so I’m trying to keep that up.”

Williams said things first started to click during Arizona’s trip to the Bay Area two weeks ago. In wins at Stanford and California he was 9 of 14 from the field and 4 of 6 from three while also making all six free throw attempts.

Against Stanford, Williams drained threes on back-to-back possessions before the first media timeout then didn’t score again until 6:59 remained in the second half, then at Cal he had 10 points in the first 5:08 then went nearly 13 minutes without scoring, turning it over four times in between scores.

“I started off kind of hot, then it started to die off,” Williams said. “That’s the next adjustment for me, to keep that consistency. Just picking my poison, when to shoot or when to drive, when to dish it off. I’m starting to get a good sense of that in college.”

Williams credits the coaching staff and his teammates for helping him adjust to the college game, with a special shout out to senior guard Justin Coleman. He said Coleman is “slowly and slowly” converting him into a film study junkie.

“I look at him as a mentor, someone who can not just lead me on the court but off it,” Williams said.

Playing close to home

The Los Angeles area is a recruiting hotbed for Arizona, where many of its best players have hailed from. Williams, freshman guard Devonaire Doutrive, and sophomore forward Ira Lee are the only scholarship players from the region, and this weekend will be the first time they get to play there in college. (Arizona didn’t visit the LA schools last season, when Lee was a freshman.)

Williams said he expects a large contingent of friends and family on hand Thursday night at USC’s Galen Center, though he is still treating the games there and Saturday at UCLA as a “business trip.”

It won’t be his first time at the Galen Center. That came in 2016, when as a sophomore he made an unofficial visit to USC when it hosted Arizona. He was treated to an epic clash between the school he said he was most interested in at the time and the one he ended up signing with.

For those that don’t remember, Arizona lost 103-101 in four overtimes. Then-freshman Allonzo Trier scored 25 points despite playing most of the OTs with a broken hand.

“I remember Trier after the game had an ice pack on his hand,” Williams said. “I realized during the game that he did something to his hand.”