The National Player of the Year conversation has bubbled from a simmer to a boil with the recent release of the 25 players on the midseason watch list for the Wooden Award. You’ll find a host of names listed, from freshman phenoms to senior stalwarts. One of those seniors, Villanova’s Josh Hart, has wedged his way to the front of the pack, emerging as the midseason favorite to win the award. The 6’6 swingman has earned praise for his balanced game, seemingly always mentioned as “the most complete player in the nation” for the one-loss Wildcats.
3,000 miles away on the other coast, Nigel Williams-Goss is playing as well and as complete a game as anyone this season, even Hart. The 6’3 point guard leads the undefeated Zags in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. Hart has been a monster on glass for his size and an effective passer in Villanova’s offense as a small forward, but Williams-Goss has matched his production in both regards from the point guard position:
During Gonzaga’s fifteen game winning streak, Williams-Goss has been both efficient and prolific. His shot chart from last week’s game at San Francisco looks like it has the chicken pox:
He missed just 3 of his 15 attempts from the field, adding a perfect 9 for 9 from the foul line, en route to a 36 point, 11 rebound, 6 assist performance that was nothing short of spectacular. Whereas Hart’s calling card has become quietly dominant performances, like a silent assassin, Williams-Goss has become the player you can’t help but notice. The Washington transfer has devastated defenses by shooting 42% from beyond the arc and punishing defenders who close out too strong by getting to the rim.
Williams-Goss is taking 37.9% of his shots at the rim this season, making over 65% of those shots (per Hoop-Math.com). With another 31% of his shots coming from outside the arc, Williams-Goss has the balance of the perfect modern point guard.
That sentence would stand out two years ago. Mark Few’s staff knew they were bringing a nice player over as a transfer from rival Washington, but nothing like this. The Zags have earned a reputation for developing players during redshirt seasons. Both Kelly Olynyk and Kyle Wiltjer made strides and entered the national conversation thanks to a gap year with Few’s coaching staff. Williams-Goss valued that opportunity, and it has shown.
At Washington two years ago, he showed himself to be a capable, but streaky and flawed scorer. He was dragged down by a dismal 25% from outside that limited the rest of his game. That season, even though he was shooting more often, he wasn’t playing efficiently:
He’s shooting less, but taking better advantage of his looks. His shooting stroke improved with a year of practice and his shot selection has made him even more effective on the offensive end. Gonzaga faces their conference rival St. Mary’s for the first time tomorrow. If Williams-Goss can continue to play at an elite level, the Zags will coast to the NCAA tournament with an undefeated record.
All stats in this post include games played on or prior to January 11.
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to SALTMoney.org, Rush The Court, ESPN.com, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or questions, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.