Freshman guard Brandon Williams is making progress in his knee rehab, but is still out indefinitely, head coach Sean Miller said Tuesday before the Arizona Wildcats left for Utah.
“He is getting better, it’s incrementally,” Miller said at his weekly presser. “It’s not like night and day, but I do think he’s making progress, which is really good sign for him. I don’t have a timetable on when he’ll return. It’s going to be sometime down the road, if at all.”
Williams has missed the last three games after experiencing soreness in his right knee, the same one he had surgically-repaired in high school to correct a congenital disorder.
Taking no chances, the Wildcats opted to shut Williams down until the pain subsides.
“It’s his best interest just to make sure that we know everything that’s going on,” Miller said last week.
Arizona badly misses Williams’ ability to make and create shots. The Wildcats are 0-3 without him and have seen their offensive efficiency drop from 138th in the country to 157th. Arizona’s offensive efficiency against Washington State (82.3) was the lowest it has been all season, despite the Cougars ranking 274th in the country on defense.
“I think this year we’re much more fragile in terms of our overall depth and talent,” Miller said. “So when we’ve gone through these things...it’s hurt our team. There’s no question about it.”
With Williams sidelined, the Wildcats have had to lean heavily on senior point guard Justin Coleman, who is averaging 39.7 minutes per game over the last three contests, doing virtually all of the playmaking.
Coleman is averaging 16.3 points per game and 5.3 assists in Williams’ absence, both numbers well above his season average, though it has come with lower shooting percentages.
Miller said Coleman has had no choice but to shoulder the load offensively, even though he is a pass-first guard by nature.
“Even if he doesn’t want to be aggressive he has to because there’s only so many guards that we have on our team,” Miller said. “Down the stretch he’s going to be a big part of how we finish.”
Doutrive ‘makes a lot of different things happen’
Fan-favorite Devonaire Doutrive is another guy who has seen his playing time increase in Williams’ stead. The freshman is averaging 17 minutes over the last two games, eight more than his season average.
“He’s an energizer in the game,” Miller said Monday on his radio show. “He has a nose for the ball. Per-minute played, he makes a lot of different things happen.”
Despite being 6-foot-5, Doutrive is second on the team in rebounding (10.4) and first in steals (2.1) per 40 minutes. The swingman recorded his first career double-double Saturday in the loss to Washington State with 10 points and 11 rebounds in 19 minutes.
Seven of those rebounds were of the offensive variety, partially the product of Arizona missing so many shots.
“I feel like he padded his offensive rebounds at the expense at a couple shots that we all would have loved to see go down,” Miller joked. “But he’s working hard everyday in practice. Like a lot of freshmen, where they begin the year is not where they end the year. His work ethic, his consistency, you can see it grow.”
Miller said the next step for Doutrive is to get stronger and improve his shooting. The 175-pound freshman is 2 for 8 from 3 and 10 for 19 from the free-throw line.
“His starting point and where he is now to where he could one day be, that will be when you see the finished product of Devonaire and he will be a heck of a player,” Miller said.
Brandon Randolph was Arizona’s most consistent scorer in non-conference play, reaching the double-figure mark in every game with pretty good efficiency, especially at the free-throw line.
But the sophomore has been a different player since league play started, and not in a good way. Randolph has only scored in double figures seven times in 11 conference games, averaging 11.1 points per contest with a shooting line of .309/.265/.697.
Miller said Randolph is still figuring out how to be consistent with the way he shoots the ball and taking smart shots, a common problem for young players. Miller used Allonzo Trier as an example.
“Allonzo, when he came to Arizona, was streaky,” Miller said. “He was a driver, a capable shooter, but he worked so hard on his shooting and then he learned how to work hard and be smart on the way he worked on his shooting, where he had a routine, his footwork was identical on every shot that he shot and he didn’t deviate from it and over time that wins out.
“I think Brandon’s in the same process of learning how important it is to shoot the ball one way, to work before and after practice, and then shot selection is big too. The more wide open shots you take the higher percentage that you can make.”
Miller said Randolph is also adjusting to being at the forefront of every opponent’s scouting report, which comes with the territory of being Arizona’s leading scorer.
“It’s different to come off the bench on a talented team than be a starter, be the person that plays the most minutes, shoots the most shots,” Miller said. “You’re kind of the hunted on the other team’s scouting report and they’re going to go to great lengths to make things hard for you.”