Beach's Bits - Williams-Goss Comes Of Age

Nigel Williams-Goss (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

SEATTLE - During Lorenzo Romar's 12 years coaching UW basketball, the program has always been a magnet for talent. But during their most successful seasons, the Huskies' top players have shared one particular trait that has set them apart from even their most talented peers: they were warriors.

Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Isaiah Thomas, and Jon Brockman propelled UW to greatness by putting their respective teams on their backs, sometimes through sheer force of will. Saturday afternoon, the Huskies' fab frosh Nigel Williams-Goss had one of those moments.

Watching Williams-Goss Saturday afternoon in an 87-81 win over Oregon State., you got the sense you were watching something special unfold. With C.J. Wilcox bottled up by a continuous stream of defensive attention and double teams, Washington needed offensive leadership. With the Huskies trailing by 12 moments into the second half, it was time for Williams-Goss' first "warrior moment" as he took over the game, dealing damage from all over the court.

"Nigel, I think that's one of the best freshman performances we have maybe seen in this building," said a beaming Romar afterwards. "What a performance he put on. He was just very, very efficient offensive and defensively."

"If teams are going to go all out like that to take me out of the offense, the other guys are going to have to step up and make shots," added Wilcox after the sharpshooting senior scored his 1700th point of his Husky career in the win. "You saw that tonight from Nigel. He had an amazing game."

The former Portland native isn't the most explosive player on the floor, but he's probably the most poised and unflappable point guard Washington's had in years. His 24-point second half performance was among the most dominating displays of offensive firepower witnessed during Romar's tenure, and the fact that he did it as a true freshman only makes his performance against the Beavers that much more extraordinary.

There has been no shortage of star power to grace the court at Hed Ed over the years, but few performances by a freshman have rivaled what we saw Saturday from the Huskies' young star. Wilcox's 24 points in the second half against UCLA certainly stands out. But Wilcox did that after a redshirt season.

It wasn't just the 32 points that made Williams-Goss's performance so special, but his overall impact on the game. He surrendered no turnovers in his 34 minutes despite being guarded by one of the conference's most talented players - Roberto Nelson. He shot 10-15 from the field, 3-4 from behind the arc, grabbed five rebounds and dished three assists while connecting on 9-10 free throws from the charity stripe.

Williams-Goss is a unique talent as far as modern point guards go. Though he doesn't wow you with his leaping ability or deadly three-point range, there's something special about the way he approaches the game, even if it's not always easy to pinpoint. His three-point percentage is a pedestrian 28 percent, and he hasn't dunked a ball in a game all season - yet he exudes total confidence in his demeanor and you get the sense that he's already thought his way through all his options before he initiates the offense, not unlike a quarterback as he approaches the center.

With the city of Seattle caught up in the midst of the Seahawks' impending Super Bowl appearance, there was something very reminiscent of Russell Wilson in Williams-Goss's game Saturday night.

His runner is a truly special skill, honed to precision over the years to become a one-of-a-kind offensive weapon in a basketball era reliant on three-pointers and rim rattling dunks. Watching him stagger unpredictably through the paint in preparation to launch his floater elicited screams of frustration from Oregon State Head Coach Craig Robinson, who was well aware of what was coming. Yet the Beavers were powerless to stop it.

And even when his three-point shot goes awry, his runner is always there for him; it's his best, most steadfast companion. It's a truly impressive shot to watch, especially as the runner has become a lost art at all levels of basketball.

"Nigel and I were talking about (his runner) recently, and I asked him ‘where did you get that'," said Romar about Williams-Goss's unique shot. "He said when he was thirteen he was playing up against 17 year-olds and the only way he could get a shot off was to shoot that little floater. It was the only way he could do it, and he shot it so much he perfected it. What he is able to do is creat a little space and float it right over the top."

Williams-Goss's first warrior moment was one for Husky history books. Were it done in the midst of a loss, it would have been just another hot shooting night from another talented Washington guard. However, it wasn't. Wins like this are special. He led his team to a strong come-from-behind victory in the most efficient manner possible.

The win over Oregon State is a win to be savored, and one reserved for true warriors. The Huskies haven't had a player capable of a warrior performance since Isaiah Thomas left for the NBA, and fans can only hope it was the first of many to come from their burgeoning young star.

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