On Wednesday, when officially ruling out freshman guard Brandon Williams for a sixth consecutive game, Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller declined to speculate on anything beyond the upcoming game against Cal.
It was almost like he feared that, if he left the door open an inch, the rumor mill might stick its foot in there and push through.
Following Thursday’s 76-51 win over the Golden Bears, though, Miller nudged that door open a little bit more by leaving open the possibility that Williams could return to action Sunday night against the Stanford Cardinal.
“I would look at him as being not available on Sunday, but I guess there’s a slim chance depending on how the next couple of days go,” Miller said. “But he could get a setback in the next couple of days or over the next five days and not play a single minute the rest of the year.
“It’s really about being really smart with what we’re doing, and the only way he plays is pain-free.”
Williams has been out since experiencing pain in his surgically repaired right knee at UCLA on Jan. 26, a game in which he had 19 points in 32 minutes. Miller has said the pain is related to a congenital condition that required surgery and caused him to miss his entire junior season of high school basketball.
Getting the 6-foot-2 Williams back would be a huge boost for Arizona’s offense, which during his absence is scoring 69.2 points per game on 41.2 percent shooting. Williams was averaging 12.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists prior to getting shut down.
Miller said that if/when Williams returns there will be some rust, much like how junior center Chase Jeter struggled in his first few games after missing time with a back injury.
“Just like Chase, with him being out as long as he’s been out, because he’s been out of practice and games, you don’t just wave a magic wand and all of a sudden he’s going to score 18 points and look like he did against UCLA,” Miller said. “There’s going to be a progression, he knows that, we know that. But we’ll be better with him than without.”