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Top recruit Brandon Williams picks Arizona over Gonzaga and Oregon

UPDATED: Sat., May 5, 2018, 7:37 p.m.

The new basketball practice court inside the Volkar Center for Athletic Achievement. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
The new basketball practice court inside the Volkar Center for Athletic Achievement. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga made a strong push in the past two months for point guard Brandon Williams, but it wasn’t enough to land one of the nation’s top recruits.

Williams announced his commitment to Arizona via livestream from the Ballislife All-American game Saturday in Norwalk, California. He removed his gray hoodie to reveal a shirt with Arizona’s logo.

Williams picked the Wildcats over Gonzaga and Oregon.

“The whole thing with me was to be extremely happy with a program I’m most comfortable with and where my heart first led me, and that was with Coach (Sean) Miller and Arizona,” Williams said.

Williams originally committed to Arizona but reopened his recruiting in early March after an ESPN.com article linked Miller to the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Miller has adamantly disputed the report.

Most recruiting analysts believed the Zags were chasing the Ducks and Wildcats, but Gonzaga made up some ground after Williams decommitted from Arizona. Williams’ campus visit last weekend prompted glowing remarks from Chris Wright, Williams’ stepfather. GU head coach Mark Few and assistant Donny Daniels made a couple of trips to see Williams in Southern California.

It wasn’t enough to convince Williams, who continues Arizona’s resurgence after three 2018 players, including Williams, decommitted two months ago. Arizona has added two quality graduate transfers and a top 70 shooting guard.

“Talent-wise, he’s cream of the crop,” said Russell White, Williams’ coach at Crespi High in Encino, California. “He can pass, he can score, he can dribble.”

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Williams is No. 37 on ESPN.com’s top 100. It’s disappointing news for the Zags, but they return a promising roster that many list as a national championship contender. They’ve been in the top 10 of nearly every preseason poll.

Williams, who averaged 24.7 points last season, probably would have joined rising senior point guard Josh Perkins as primary ballhandlers and provided the option of a two point-guard system GU has used often during its streak of 20 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

Perkins, who recently had shoulder surgery, is expected to be ready for his senior season. He’s the only true point guard on the roster, but the Zags’ other options could include Zach Norvell Jr., the starting wing last season who could fillin at point, rising sophomore Jesse Wade, 2018 redshirt Joel Ayayi, and incoming freshman Greg Foster Jr.

Standout forwards Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie announced last month they are returning for their junior seasons. They join a strong core group that includes Perkins, Norvell, Corey Kispert, San Jose State transfer Brandon Clarke, Jacob Larsen and Jeremy Jones. True freshman forward Filip Petrusev is No. 54 on ESPN.com’s Top 100.

The Zags are also involved in the transfer and graduate transfer market. Albany graduate transfer Joe Cremo’s final five is Gonzaga, Villanova, Kansas, Texas and Creighton. By the end of this weekend, he’ll have visited Texas, Creighton, Villanova and Kansas. The versatile 6-4 shooting guard can handle the ball and has averaged nearly four assists each of the last two seasons.