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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Williams ready to take the next step

    Sophomore Marcus Williams guides the ball into the basket in Arizonas exhibition game against Victoria Nov. 11 in McKale Center. After flirting with the NBA, Williams, who averaged 13 points per game as a freshman returned to be Arizonas go-to-guy.
    Sophomore Marcus Williams guides the ball into the basket in Arizona’s exhibition game against Victoria Nov. 11 in McKale Center. After flirting with the NBA, Williams, who averaged 13 points per game as a freshman returned to be Arizona’s go-to-guy.

    Last year, Marcus Williams was arguably Arizona’s best and most consistent player, finishing just short of Pacific 10 Conference Freshman of the Year honors.

    But after his legs died a bit at the end of the season, the sophomore forward spent his summer in the gym, making about 500 shots per day, working on technique and follow-through and rejuvenating himself by spending time with his family in his hometown, Seattle.

    “”The summer, that’s the most important time, when no one’s looking at you,”” Williams said. “”That’s the time when you’ve really got to work hard. That separates the people who get to play in Final Fours on their teams. If everyone works hard when no one’s looking, we’re going to be great.””

    UA head coach Lute Olson always talks about how players make the most improvement between their freshman and sophomore years.

    If that’s the case with the 6-foot-7, 205-pound Williams, who last season averaged 13.0 points – tops for returners – and 4.7 rebounds, watch out.

    “”Him being my roommate last year, I just noticed that he completely changed,”” forward Fendi Onobun said. “”He grew serious about what’s going on. He took that attitude toward everybody.””

    In early April, it looked like this season wasn’t going to happen for Williams at Arizona. Speculation ran rampant that he would enter the NBA Draft, as some prominent Web sites even prematurely reported that he was entering, but with the help of his mother, Williams decided he needed another year to mature and improve his strength.

    Now, he’s expected to be a lottery pick next year, with projecting him to go No. 12 overall.

    Olson was impressed with how the decision was weighed by Williams, who said the choice is already worth it.

    “”I made a decision, and I don’t look back at all,”” he said. “”Obviously a ring is what I’m shooting for, but that’s not why I came back, because I felt like I needed to improve as far as the maturity in my game and growing as a person.””

    Williams profile

    • Pac-10 All-Freshman team
  • Freshman All-American
  • second-team All-Rookie
  • Led all Pac-10 freshmen with a 13.0 ppg average
  • 430 points scored are the seventh-most by a freshman in Arizona history
  • But as long as he’s back, Williams has one final goal: Lead the Wildcats to Atlanta for the Final Four.

    “”That’s what Coach wants me to do, to be a leader on this team, and we’re all on the same page with this team to the promised land in Atlanta,”” he said.

    Not even an ankle injury, which kept him out of practice and exhibition games for a week and a half before returning Nov. 6, can stop that, as Olson said Williams showed no effects of the injury after returning to practice.

    Williams agreed, saying he didn’t even think about his ankle in his return to game action Nov. 8. In that exhibition finale against Victoria, Williams led the Wildcats with 25 points in a team-high 25 minutes, including 19 in the first half.

    This isn’t surprising, Olson said, since Williams’ summer work made him the best-conditioned Wildcat when practice started, as he beat all his teammates in a mile run and consistently comes in first running wind sprints.

    When he has been on the practice court, he’s taken that leadership role seriously, as Olson said his squad looks up to Williams, who is developing into a leader rather than being more of a follower like he was as a freshman.

    “”If he sees something wrong, he sees what’s going on with me,”” freshman forward Jordan Hill said. “”He steps me out and tells me what he saw.””

    He has also often been matched in practice against freshman forward Chase Budinger, who Williams hopes has a similar freshman year to his own. Williams has helped him with such intricacies as getting his shot off more quickly against bigger players and how to come off a screen, while helping him improve just by being a tough practice player.

    That’s a far cry from the freshman who seemingly couldn’t hit a free throw at the start of last year, missing his first seven attempts.

    “”The difference in his confidence right now from what it was a year ago is night and day,”” Olson said.

    After making 25 starts in 33 games, including every game once conference play began, Williams has quality experience playing in tough environments.

    “”I got to play against UConn, Kansas, against Villanova and all the good teams, (Washington), and learned what it’s going to take for us to win games,”” he said. “”I changed because I’ve really focused on being a leader and matured a lot as an individual and a man.””

    Still, with a roster loaded with scorers, especially on the wing, Olson doesn’t need Williams to score a ton of points for the Wildcats to win.

    “”I think the way he’s playing is he doesn’t try to do too much,”” Olson said. “”We don’t need to have him try to do too much. It’s OK for him to do too much defensively and too much on the boards. I don’t want him to feel like he has to do too much in the scoring category.””

    Although the NBA beckons, most likely after this year as the Wildcats already have his scholarship slotted for a signed recruit, Williams has one other place to visit first.

    “”Atlanta,”” he said. “”That’s where we want to be at the end of the year.””

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