Arizona Wildcats freshman guard Brandon Williams will not play against Washington and Washington State this week due to a right knee injury.
“He’s going to be sidelined indefinitely right now with his knee,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said Monday on his weekly radio show. “We’re hopeful that we can get him back at some point, but right now we’re not going to be able to have him ready to play this week.”
Williams tweaked his right knee on Jan. 26 in Arizona’s loss to UCLA. The ASU game was the first Williams has missed this season, though he was limited on Dec. 15 and Dec. 19 against Baylor and Montana, respectively, due to soreness in the same knee.
Williams missed his entire junior season of high school after having surgery on that knee to correct osteochondritis dissecans, a joint condition in which bone underneath the cartilage of a joint dies due to lack of blood flow, so it is never a good sign when it is flaring up.
When Miller was asked if Williams recent injury is related to that surgery, he could not rule it out.
“I think time will tell,” Miller said after the loss to ASU.
Williams is Arizona’s third-leading scorer (12.0 ppg) and leading assister (3.7 apg). The timing of his injury is unfortunate because he had been playing the best basketball of the season and the Wildcats, losers of three straight, could certainly use him on the court right now.
Williams was averaging 13.8 points and 3.5 assists in Pac-12 play before his injury, upping his shooting percentages to .436/.400/.836. He tweeted “control the things you can control” shortly after this story was posted.
“It’s devastating in so many ways but especially for Brandon because he’s worked hard, he’s been consistent in practice, and for him to experience an injury and to be shut down right now is disappointing,” Miller said.
To make up for it, Miller said Arizona needs more production from starting point guard Justin Coleman, who broke out for 19 points and a season-high nine assists in the loss at ASU.
“Not just one player has to pick up that production, but Justin is one of them,” Miller said. “I think shooting the ball more, especially from the 3-point line, being ultra-aggressive at all times, not deferring, that’s something we really need from him. If you look at his scoring at eight points per game, he has to take that average from eight to 10. If he could be a double-figure scorer here in the next nine conference games, I think that would be very meaningful for us.
“Without Brandon Williams, we lose a lot of firepower.”
The Wildcats had a couple extra days to rest, recover and prepare for Thursday’s tilt against first-place Washington since they did not play Saturday or Sunday, and Miller hopes Chase Jeter will benefit from that.
Miller estimated the big man played at “40 or 50 percent” health against ASU last Thursday, his first appearance since suffering back spasms against Oregon State on Dec. 19.
Jeter finished with seven points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes in the overtime loss, noticeably rusty on both ends of the court.
“He did the best he could and contributed but wasn’t himself,” Miller said.
While Williams might be Arizona’s most talented player, Jeter is its most valuable. Arizona’s defense has plummeted from 23rd in the country to 56th since Jeter’s injury.
“We’re anxious to get him back at full strength and playing with great confidence because you really notice when he’s not there,” Miller said. “His ability to protect the basket, he’s our best defensive rebounder, and with Chase we have some depth inside. We have the opportunity to rotate Ryan Luther and Ira Lee with him. Without Chase we don’t have enough in there, and a lot of times … we were playing four, almost five, guards. Getting him back is key. I wish we could have Brandon Williams back at the same time but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen right away. We have our fingers crossed that Brandon can get healthy and join us sooner rather than later.”