It’s the most predictable aspect of every game for Noah Williams.
The Washington State guard may not anticipate when he’ll score 20 points or when he’ll go ice cold; when his verbal jabs will warrant a technical foul or when officials will look the other way; when his defense will erase the opponent’s best scorer, or when it’ll slip.
But, without failure, Williams can always expect the call that comes afterward.
It’s become routine for Williams to spend time breaking down film and talking chalk with his father Guy, a 6-foot-9 standout point guard for Washington State in the early 1980s. The phone calls come after Williams’ best games and after his worst, although the latter are much more seldom these days for someone who’s become integral to what the Cougars (13-10) are doing on both ends of the floor.
“Every game,” Williams said of the frequency of conversations with his father. “I haven’t missed a day.”
Williams, who’s averaging 13.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.4 steals, has developed in nearly every area of his game since his freshman year. A 14.8% 3-point shooter in 2019-20, Williams is connecting on 41.1% of his attempts from beyond the arc and making 80% of his free throws after hitting 72.2% as a freshman.
The film breakdowns have helped – there’s no doubt there. But they may also start to backfire on Guy if he isn’t careful.
On Thursday against California, Noah scored 24 points in the first half – breaking his career high of 21 – and finished with 32 before being pulled from the game with 6:50 to play. Williams was one rebound and three assists shy of the program’s first triple-double in 14 years, but the Seattle native had another target in mind when he lobbied to reenter the game with the Cougars leading by more than 30 points.
In 1983, Guy Williams set a school record with 43 points against Idaho State. The record has since been usurped, twice, by Brian Quinnett, and Klay Thompson matched it on two occasions. It would’ve taken a late flurry of points for Noah to reach his dad’s career mark on Thursday. WSU coach Kyle Smith never gave much consideration to subbing his top scorer back into the game, acknowledging the Cougars would need him against Stanford on Saturday, especially if point guard Isaac Bonton remains out.
“I was surprised he didn’t badger me harder,” Smith said. “To be honest, I just said, ‘Nah.’ I thought about it for a second, but I was like, ‘No, we’ve got Stanford, I think we’re in good shape here.’ He was talking about trying to get his dad’s record. I said, ‘Get out of here. Stop.’ He was thinking 43. I said we don’t need to see that.”
Conversations between Noah and Guy have been more meaningful the past two weeks. The WSU guard made just six shots and scored a combined 24 points in the three games prior to Thursday – his worst stretch of the season.
“I watched lots of film with my dad, just to see where I could get my shots, what I need to do to be more aggressive and just to get easy buckets,” Williams said. “… He was just saying, make sure you get two feet in the paint. Every time you get two feet in the paint, the defense draws. So, you have your kickouts. You have a tool bag he taught me, so don’t be afraid to get into your tool bag when you get into the point.”
Guy, famously nicknamed “The Fly” during his brief stint with George Raveling’s Cougars, credits much of his son’s development to offseason work and pledging 100% of his time to basketball. A former two-sport high school athlete who excelled as a wide receiver at Seattle’s O’Dea High School, earning All-Metro League honors, Noah’s growth on the court accelerated when he left the gridiron and began treating college basketball as a full-time job.
“We must be reminded that this is Noah’s first time dedicating himself totally to one sport,” Guy said. “He is beginning to recognize the fruits of hard work and focus.”
Guy, who played two NBA seasons with the Washington Bullets and Golden State Warriors, now works as the human services manager for the City of Renton’s Community Services Department. He praised WSU’s coaching staff for its support – “we recognize that it ‘takes a village’ and the WSU staff is the type of village you would want your child to be supported by,” Guy said – and is optimistic about Noah’s potential as a future NBA player, while acknowledging his son is still “a work in progress.”
“We can see the NBA potential at 6-6 playing point guard oozing out,” he said.
For now, Williams’ immediate family members are trying to live in the moment. Noah’s sisters, Myah and Aminah, former college basketball players at Grambling State and Washington, respectively, were euphoric as they watched their brother’s 32-point eruption.
Guy was, too, though he’ll happily hold the family scoring torch until his son is prepared to take it.
“His family, especially his sisters, are so very happy for him,” he said. “But it ain’t 43.”
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