Almost three months after de-committing from Arizona in the midst of a controversial ESPN story implicating coach Sean Miller in alleged recruiting wrongdoing, high-profile point guard Brandon Williams has made a reverse decision and will head to Tucson this fall for his freshman season.
Williams, who starred at Encino (Calif.) Crespi High School, announced his decision this afternoon, choosing Arizona over Oregon and Gonzaga, two schools he visited after re-opening his recruitment after the ESPN story in late February.
The ESPN story, alleging Miller was heard on an FBI wiretap arranging a $100,000 payment to an agent runner to secure the recruitment of Deandre Ayton, was first viewed as a potential death knell for Miller and the Arizona program.
Williams not only de-committed but forward Shareef O’Neal — Shaquille O’Neal’s son — also changed his mind and instead signed with UCLA.
One of the first players to come congratulate Brandon Williams was former Arizona point guard commit Jahvon Quinerly pic.twitter.com/huHu7IsWje
— Matt Moreno (@MattGOAZCATS) May 5, 2018
Miller and Ayton have vehemently denied the claim in the report, although the writer of the story, Mark Schlabach, has stood by it.
Williams’ decision to commit to Miller again is meaningful on various fronts, including the reputation of Miller and the Wildcats’ program.
If Williams was convinced that Miller was untrustworthy and the Arizona program was on shaky ground, he would have gone to Gonzaga — a very stable program under longtime coach Mark Few — or Oregon — a rising power under respected coach Dana Altman.
Instead, Williams will be with Arizona, leading the charge that Miller is to be trusted and Arizona’s program is not on the canvas yet.
Why Brandon Williams is an important commit:
Borderline 5-star talent whose family realizes he is a likely 2-3 year player.
Shows other elite recruits that it is “safe” to commit.
Willing to play on or off the ball, able to bring in other combo/point guards.
— Brad Allis (@WSRBrad) May 5, 2018
“The whole thing with me was being extremely happy with a program where I know I’m most comfortable with and where I know my heart went first,” Williams said when making his announcement. “That was with coach Miller and the University of Arizona.”
Williams’ commitment gives Arizona 11 scholarship players for the 2017-18 season, including three players at the point guard position. Justin Coleman, a graduate transfer from Samford, committed last week and Alex Barcello returns for his sophomore season.
Another Class of 2018 signee Devonaire Doutrive is a combo guard who can also handle the point. There is a possibility also that Williams can play at the shooting guard spot which would allow Coleman the bulk of minutes at the point.
The glut of talent on the perimeter overall now creates the concern for keeping a good chemistry. Where will the minutes be divided among eight players who can play point guard, shooting guard or on the wing?
Coleman tweeted his approval of Williams’ commitment:
@TheeBWill 🐻⬇️ LETS GET IT!!!
— J2️⃣ (@justincoleman05) May 5, 2018
The abundance of talent is a good problem to have, one that Miller is accustomed to in his Arizona tenure, but the result of a Final Four appearance has yet to take place. Can he finally fit all the pieces of the puzzle together with potentially seven newcomers to the program?
Miller has assembled most of his recruiting class without one of his full-time assistant spots filled. Danny Peters was hired last month and Mark Phelps has remained on the staff.
With two scholarships left to fill — for now if all the players return — Miller will likely look to bolster his frontcourt.
Class of 2018 power forward Jordan Brown appears to be of the highest priority for Miller. Brown’s decision is down to Arizona, Nevada and California. He canceled an official visit of Nevada this weekend but has not ruled the Wolfpack out.
Signing Brown would make Arizona a favorite again to win the Pac-12 title and make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
Presently, the only bulk inside is sophomore Ira Lee (used sporadically last season), Pitt graduate transfer Ryan Luther and Duke transfer Chase Jeter. Adding Brown would give Miller the necessary depth to handle the five-month season and provide the opportunity for different combinations.
Here is Arizona’s 2018-19 roster by position:
Alex Barcello, sophomore
Justin Coleman, senior
Brandon Williams, freshman
Devonaire Doutrive, freshman
Brandon Randolph, sophomore
Dylan Smith, junior
Emmanuel Akot, sophomore
Omar Thielemans, freshman
Ira Lee, sophomore
Ryan Luther, senior
Chase Jeter, junior