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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Williams looks for bigger accolades in 2006-07 season

    The season is long over and the summer heat is upon Tucson, but the Arizona Daily Wildcat Freshman of the Year is inside, sweating from head to toe after the second of two rigorous daily workouts at the Student Recreation Center. He may have had a sizzling start to his Arizona career, but Marcus Williams’ goals are a lot higher for the future.

    “”I want to be an All-American, hopefully have my jersey hanging up in McKale Center, so other people can look and say, ‘Yeah, I know who that is,'”” said Williams, who decided to come back for his sophomore season after much deliberation. “”I want to be the best in the country.””

    The Seattle native averaged 13 points per game to lead all Pacific 10 Conference freshmen, but raised his game to another level in the last 10 games, leading the Wildcats in scoring at 16.4 points per game.

    Still, Williams was overlooked for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors.

    “”Obviously I was disappointed,”” Williams said. “”Congratulations to whatever his name is who won it. I don’t hold a grudge toward that, but it’s motivation to come out and prove to everybody that I should be the No. 1 player in the Pac-10.””

    Williams started off his season slowly. In his first five games, he never scored in double digits and played less than 17 minutes per game. Against NAU on Dec. 8, Williams broke out with a 17-point performance, and a star was born.

    He would score less than nine points only once the rest of the season as he became Arizona’s go-to player down the stretch, pouring in 25 points in a Pac-10 Tournament loss to UCLA March 10, averaging 18 points in two games against hometown school Washington, where he was booed, and dropping 24 points and eight rebounds on Villanova in the second round of the NCAA Tournament March 19.

    “”The first day I saw him, just watching him play, his workouts, he’s an accomplished ball player,”” said freshman forward Fendi Onobun. “”I love working out with him because it’s a confidence builder. His mentality on the court is there’s no one in front of him that can stop him.””

    While other players from Washington, including Washington freshman forward Jon Brockman, ex-Kansas freshman guard Micah Downs and Portland Trail Blazers rookie guard Martell Webster, played in the McDonald’s All-American game, Williams wasn’t selected. Arizona head coach Lute Olson said before the season that Williams would be the best of the bunch when all was said and done, and after one season, he is reaping the rewards of that statement.

    “”Marcus made as much progress in his freshman season as anyone we’ve ever had here, and I expect similar improvements next year,”” Olson said after he was informed of Williams’ decision to come back to Arizona.

    Coming back for his sophomore season, Williams said he believes he’s ready for much more than he has accomplished.

    “”My selling point is to work on everything,”” he said. “”I’m a jack of all trades. I want to extend my range, get stronger … that’s the biggest emphasis. Ball handling and becoming a leader and growing as a man as far as being out there on the court and leading these guys to Atlanta.””

    Honorable mention: Mike Thomas, football

    Even at 5-foot-8, freshman wide receiver Mike Thomas stood tall on the Arizona football team this season.

    The DeSoto, Texas, native stepped up when few Wildcat receivers seemed to be able to, setting team rookie records for receptions (52) and yards (771) while earning Pacific 10 Conference co-Freshman of the Year honors.

    “”He has great hands, he’s fast, and he understands the defense, too,”” freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama said.

    With the team’s best mix of blazing speed and sure hands, Thomas shredded opposing secondaries for five touchdowns, the most among wide receivers.

    “”I thought I was going to be able to play, but I didn’t think the impact was going to be that great,”” Thomas said. “”I’m just going to try to keep building on it each year.””

    -Tom Knauer

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