One of the words I heard in the offseason to describe this revamped Arizona Wildcats basketball team was "coachable."
So, it wasn't a huge shock -- although pretty interesting, I think -- to hear coach Sean Miller use that very word Thursday when describing his freshman centerpiece, guard Brandon Williams.
"The No. 1 compliment I can give Brandon is that he's incredibly coachable," Miller said on the Pac-12 Networks as part of their coverage of the league's Media Day.
"He doesn't show up with all the answers. There is no de-programming with him. He comes from a great high school basketball program and family. His teammates enjoy being around him. He's eager to learn and listen.
"Sometimes, talent takes you so far, but what is going to catapult you into having a great freshman year is if you're receptive toward learning a new system and understanding that you're like a ninth-grader all over again."
Williams arrived on campus as a four-star recruit from Crespi High School in Encino, Calif. But he was, at one point, a five-star prospect. A knee issue cost him all of his junior year, and he lost one of his "stars." He was not selected to be a McDonald's All-American. He wasn't chosen for the Jordan Brand Classic all-star game.
"That still makes me mad to this day, but it's all good," Williams said last week. "I only control things I can control -- and that was having a phenomenal senior season, and I think I had that. ...
"I have probably been underrated my whole life, to be honest with you. Not making the McDonald's game and Jordan Brand game, it kind of hurt me at the time, but then I looked at the bigger picture and my long-term goals."
Like he said, it's all good now. If being overlooked means he comes to Arizona with a chip on his shoulder rather than an outsized ego, all the better for the Wildcats.
We will get our first look at Williams and the 2018-19 Arizona Wildcats basketball team on Sunday in the Red-Blue Game, starting at noon at McKale Center. Williams will play both guard spots for Arizona this season in what will be a more athletic, perimeter-oriented attack for the Cats, who figure to use Justin Coleman, a graduate transfer from Samford, as the primary point guard.
Williams is 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, but Miller said he considers Williams a "bigger guard" who has a 6-6 wingspan.
"I don't classify myself as a 1 or a 2," Williams said. "I just classify myself as a basketball player. Whether that's being on the wing or bringing the ball up, whatever Coach Miller wants. It doesn't really matter to me."
Pac-12 Networks analyst Don MacLean called Williams "electric with the ball, can get anywhere on the court he wants. He's really hard to stay in front of."
Miller added: "Can really score, and very dynamic in the open court. I think we'll rely on him a lot, both in his playmaking and scoring ability, and I look at him as making a big impact."
Williams already made a big impact through his recruiting odyssey -- going from committed to UA, to de-committed, to re-committed in May. It's that last part, after he weighed his options amid the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption that included charges against Wildcats assistant Book Richardson, that helped send a signal to other recruits that it was OK again to go to Arizona.
"I have known Coach Miller since I was in the ninth grade," Williams said. "Me and him have a close relationship."
Close enough to be coachable? So far, so good.