LOS ANGELES – Former Zag Nigel Williams-Goss is 6,420 miles from here, but he feels connected to Thursday’s Gonzaga-Florida State matchup at the Staples Center.
Williams-Goss, who is in his first professional season with KK Partizan in Belgrade, Serbia, keeps a close eye on the Zags, one year removed from helping the team reach the national championship game.
“I can get all the big games live or delayed on my computer,” Williams-Goss said in a telephone interview. “I’ve followed them every step of the way and I’ve talked to coach (Mark) Few, coach (Tommy) Lloyd and coach (Brian) Michaelson pretty regularly.”
Williams-Goss also stays in touch with Florida State senior guard Braian Angola, his 2013 teammate at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada. Angola left his native Colombia to play in the U.S. Williams-Goss’ family, which relocated to Nevada when Nigel attended Findlay Prep, took Angola in like another son.
“He’s like my brother,” Angola said of Williams-Goss. “His family used to take care of me.”
The two players’ paths crossed the summer before they were prep teammates when they attended the Adidas Nations all-star camp.
“We always teased him about his English and it was still pretty slow that first year at Findlay,” Williams-Goss said. “It’s crazy to hear him now. He speaks 1,000 times better.”
Williams-Goss used to drive to Coeur d’Alene to pick up Angola and bring him to play in pick-up games at GU.
“Tuesdays and Thursdays, it was fun,” Angola said. “That was one of main reasons I decided to go somewhere else. They had a lot of guards at my position.”
Williams-Goss said he’s trying to arrange a friendly wager with Angola and promises it will be “NCAA approved.”
“We haven’t talked about it yet,” Angola said, “but whatever he wants to do I’m down for it.”
Williams-Goss has been impressed with the Zags’ balance and the variety of players capable of dominating on any given night.
“It’s a new guy every game,” Williams-Goss said. “A guy might struggle for a few games, but they sense when someone isn’t playing well and they have the ability to step up.”
Freshman guard Zach Norvell Jr., who credits Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews for mentoring him during his redshirt season in 2017, has been clutch with a tiebreaking 3-pointer against UNC Greensboro and a 28-point effort versus Ohio State.
“We all knew he was really talented, especially on the offensive end, but my dad and I would tell him, ‘We think you have a chance to lead the team in scoring,’ ” Williams-Goss said. “Obviously, when the team needs a big bucket, he’s a guy they go to. He has that innate feeling and confidence and ability to score.”
Williams-Goss is preparing for the final two months of the season. He averaged nearly 17 points and seven assists during the Adriatic League. KK Partizan also won the Serbian Cup, defeating rival Red Star with Williams-Goss posting 23 points and seven assists. He earned MVP honors of the tourney.
Williams-Goss hasn’t lined up against any former Zags, but he was able to grab dinner with Kyle Wiltjer, who plays for Olympiacos in Greece, and Steven Gray, who plays for Zadar in Croatia. He has visited with Kevin Pangos and Przemek Karnowski “because they’re in the same time zone.”
Williams-Goss said it’s too early to tell what his future holds. Utah, which drafted him in the second round, retains his rights.
“Both assistant GMs from Utah came and visited a couple weeks ago,” Williams-Goss said. “Right now there’s so much going on, I’m just trying to focus on now.”
And the Zags, of course.
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