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Brandon Williams leaving Arizona to pursue pro opportunities

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 17 Oregon at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The writing on the wall is now in ink.

The Arizona Wildcats announced Friday that redshirt sophomore guard Brandon Williams is leaving the program to pursue professional opportunities.

This move was foreshadowed long ago when the Wildcats added the Tubelis twins to go one player over the scholarship limit and Williams said in an interview in May that he is “definitely” going to play this season, “but it’s just a matter of where at this point.”

Williams’ future became even clearer when he was the only UA player not to report in August.

The former four-star recruit was productive in his lone season at Arizona, averaging 11.4 points and 3.4 assists as a freshman, despite a battling constant knee trouble.

Williams had surgery after the 2018-19 campaign to correct a congenital knee condition, forcing him to miss the entire 2019-20 season.

It was the second time in four years that he missed a season because of knee trouble, but he returned to the court this summer and, based on recent videos, appears healthy.

“Arizona, I Say Thank You!” Williams said in a statement. “Thank you to the University, the fans, the basketball staff and all those who supported me. I especially want to thank Sean Miller, who believed in me from day one. I also want to send a special thanks to athletic trainer Justin Kokoskie and the training staff for pushing me each day during this long rehab process. With that being said, it’s now time for me to pursue my goals of being a professional basketball player. I will continue to pursue my degree in the future, and it will always be UofA forever in my heart. Thanks again to the entire Arizona basketball family, both past and present! BEARDOWN FOREVER!!!”

Arizona coach Sean Miller said he completely supports Williams’ decision to go pro, “especially now that he has had successful knee surgery and over a year to recover.”

“I am going to miss Brandon Williams being a part of our everyday program at Arizona,” Miller said. “However, I am excited to follow his path moving forward, both on the basketball court and academically, as he continues to pursue his undergraduate degree from our university.

“Brandon is one of the most talented guards we have recruited during my tenure here. Unfortunately, his health didn’t allow him to showcase his talents for an entire career in our program. In his lone year playing for us, while he was never 100% physically, Brandon had an outstanding season.”

While Williams’ time at Arizona was brief, his commitment to the UA in 2018 was a seminal moment for a program that was embroiled in the FBI investigation into college basketball at the time.

Williams decommitted during the investigation, but re-upped with Arizona over Oregon and Gonzaga after reopening his recruitment, signaling to other recruits that it was OK to be a Wildcat.

Arizona’s class the following year, which featured Nico Mannion and Josh Green, wound up being one of the best in the country. Its 2020 class was also in the top-10.

“On a personal level, I want to thank Brandon’s parents, Chris and Kisha, for their unwavering support of both their son and our basketball program,” Miller said. “I will certainly miss seeing them at our games and throughout the season.”

Without Williams, the Wildcats will roll with a backcourt that includes Georgetown transfer James Akinjo, Estonian freshman Kerr Kriisa, Seattle U grad transfer Terrell Brown, redshirt junior Jemarl Baker Jr. and four-star recruit Dalen Terry.

The Wildcats recently got good news on Akinjo, learning that he will be immediately eligible to play whenever Arizona’s season begins.

As for Williams, it’s too late for him to declare for the NBA Draft, but he could sign in the G League or somewhere overseas.