The 13-year-old was good enough to play basketball with the big kids. Getting his shot over them, however, was an issue.
It was because of that disadvantage that Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington’s freshman point guard, now possesses one of the most effective floaters in the Pac-12.
And maybe in the country, given how infrequently that type of shot is used these days.
At 13, Williams-Goss played on an Amateur Athletic Union team for ages 17 and under, meaning most of his competition was older — and taller — than he was.
So when he worked out with his father, Virgil, dad would hold a broomstick over his head, vertically, and urge Williams-Goss to find a way to shoot it over him.
A floater was born.
“Being so small compared to those guys, it was really the only shot I could shoot,” Williams-Goss said Thursday. “I couldn’t get all the way to the basket, so I had to learn how to pull up and shoot floaters, and it just kind of stuck with me from there.”
With the Pac-12 season nearing its midway point, the 6-foot-3 Williams-Goss is in contention for Freshman of the Year honors. He leads all Pac-12 freshmen in scoring with 13 points per game and set a UW freshman record last week by scoring 32 points in a victory over Oregon State.
And even though he’s tall enough now to simply attack the rim like everybody else, the floater remains an important part of his offensive skill set.
“The one player who does it a lot is Tony Parker, and Tony Parker is someone who I try to model my game after,” Williams-Goss said of the San Antonio Spurs star. “I think it’s still there in a few people, but guys are so athletic, some people don’t have to. Other guys do. It just works for me.”
More often than not. When Williams-Goss dribbles into the lane, he often gives his defender the slightest nudge to create separation, then lifts off the floor and sends the ball toward the hoop with a slight upward thrust of the right wrist.
He focuses on the back of the rim, he said, just like on every other shot.
But the floater, according to senior guard C.J. Wilcox said, is “impossible” to defend.
“He has the best floater in the Pac-12, if not the country,” Wilcox said. “So every time he does that, I just assume it’s going in.”
EYE ON THE STANDINGS
Anyone who watched UW play during the nonconference portion of its schedule will likely find it hard to believe that if the Huskies win Saturday against Washington State, they will, at worst, be tied for third place in the conference with half of the schedule behind them.
At 5-3, the Huskies began Thursday in a three-way tie with Arizona State and California for third place. UW coach Lorenzo Romar admits that he’s encouraging his players to keep an eye on the standings more than he has in past seasons.
That’s because of how poorly they started the year, he said. The Huskies won only six of their first 11 games and finished nonconference play with an 8-5 record.
“We were so poor defensively. Our record wasn’t the best. We didn’t play great basketball,” Romar said. “I think it’s important now for us to see the big picture and see where we’re at, because it’d be easy to still think about how we were and not realize what we accomplished.
“We’ve talked to our team about — we had the injuries, we had this happen, we had the adversity, and this is where we are. Look at the standings. Do we want to go back to poverty? Do we want to go back there? Or do we like the way this feels? And in order for us to stay here, these are some of the things we’re going to have to do, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve brought it up and made them more aware of it this year.”