The year started with the Garden City High School boys expecting to play at a fast-paced tempo. That seemed to be a perfect fit for junior guard Azavier Williams, who was used to getting up and down the floor at his old high school in Chicago.
“In Chicago, there’s no zone (defense), so it’s just really fast-paced,” he said of his former Curie High School team, which is currently ranked one of the top 10 schools in the country by Maxpreps.
But while the Buffaloes want to play up-tempo, their coach Jacy Holloway also wants the team to be pragmatic with shot selection, and understand “the difference between taking quick, OK shots, as opposed to moving it a little bit more and getting a great shot,” Holloway said in November as his team was preparing for the season opener.
That took a bit to get used to for Williams, who moved to Garden City just as school began in the summer of 2018.
“As you can see, the team is real patient, but me, I’m just one speed because I’m used to that,” Williams said.
So Williams struggled in finding that balance early in the season — but he may have found it in recent weeks.
Since Jan. 22, when the Buffs blew out Ulysses, 48-33, Williams’ offensive efficiency has exploded.
In six games since, he’s hitting 48.9 percent of his shots, and averaging 9.5 points per game. In the 11 prior games, Williams never shot better than 48.9 percent in any game. He was making just 30.3 percent of his shots during that stretch.
“I think it took a little bit,” Holloway said. “I actually thought he started really good, but it worked kind of negative against him — he was patient, but he wasn’t aggressive trying to score.”
He seems to have turned the corner, though, and the Buffs are 5-1 in the last six games, with their one loss coming when Williams scored just five points on 2-of-6 shooting.
“He’s done a better job of getting his points out of our offense,” Holloway said. “There was a point there where he was rushing things or pressing too much.”
Williams said it took a talk with his family back in Chicago, and a little bit of self-reflection, to help him make the adjustments needed to be successful in the Buffs’ offense.
It was hard enough to make the off-field adjustments — “I’m still not used to the smell,” Williams said of the surrounding cattle — of moving from Chicago to rural Garden City, but Williams had to figure out a way.
“I really had to sit down with coach (Holloway), my uncles, family members back in Chicago, and they really have to talk to me, tell me what to do better,” he said.
Don’t force it, but take the open shots, Williams said they told him. He said he’s still working on that.
He’s still a bit turnover-prone, averaging 3.1 turnovers per game in the first 11 games and just under 3 in the six games since, but his assist-to-turnover ratio is a bit better (0.48 to 0.59).
“He just gives us another option,” GCHS junior guard Carlos Acosta said of Williams. “We have more scorers who can score the ball now. He’s a point guard, and he can create for himself, he can create for others.”
Holloway agreed, saying that Williams has helped open the offense up for guys like Kyler Lamb and Jarrod Springston. And Williams’ ability to create offense on his own, or push the ball after a turnover or defensive rebound, can help get the Buffs easy points.
“I think it’s definitely going to help us in sub-state,” Holloway said, “where we’re going to have to play teams that are a little bit different that what we’re seeing during the season, so that at least gives us options.”