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For hoops manager, work is its own reward

KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Men's basketball senior manager Joe Williams has taken on more responsibility with the team since he joined four years ago. Williams helps with daily practice, breaking down stats and analyzing opponents.
By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
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While Channing Frye is doing interviews, senior manager Joe Williams is trying to break Frye's concentration. Frye tries not to look, but as soon as he makes eye contact with Williams, Frye is grinning from ear to ear. Williams and Frye are good friends, but more importantly, Williams is part of the Arizona men's basketball team.

He's been there since Frye and senior guard Salim Stoudamire were freshmen, this being his fourth year as a basketball team manager and his fifth year at the UA, with a communications degree already in hand.

"The real story is over here," he jokes to Frye, pointing at himself.

Williams is more than just a manager. He's practically an assistant coach with all the responsibilities and jobs that await him every single day, from warming up the players to breaking down game tape of the next opponent, Williams arrives early and stays late.

Head coach Lute Olson believes in Williams, and when Olson has to leave early to recruit, Williams stays late to make sure the team is prepared for their next game.

"When I thought I was going to get to go home as soon as practice ended, I'm up there watching the tape and breaking down stats," Williams said, adding that he enjoys the workload and being able to contribute to the team.

"It's almost a reward, because if there wasn't all that responsibility, I wouldn't feel like he trusted me," Williams said of Olson. "To know that he puts so much on me lets me know that he trusts my abilities and what I can really do."

On game days, Williams arrives half an hour before shoot around and works mostly with the big men, guarding them in the post and working on their moves.

"He's had a chance to be successful here at the program, and he definitely helps out the big guys working out," Frye said.

After a team pre-game meal, Williams is back on the court about two hours before the game rebounding for the players and getting them extra warm-up shots.

During the game, Williams is dressed like all the other assistants, in a suit and tie.

He lets Olson know who has been shooting the ball well or poorly, who has been hitting the boards or any other stat Olson might inquire.

On practice days, Williams has even more duties, starting with the breakdown of tape against the next opponent.

In preparation for the first round of the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament against the California Golden Bears, Williams spends time with the video managers trying to expose the Bears' tendencies.

When it's time for practice, he goes into the drills and works with the players on preparation for certain things the managers noticed in the tapes.

Sometimes, Williams said he's "conned" into partaking in the scrimmages during practice, playing on the scout team. Williams, who played high school basketball, said he was shocked at first by the speed of the game and the talent of the players.

"I swear guys don't realize the pace of the game until you get out there. The game is just at a different level," Williams said. "Everything is a little bit quicker. You see a guy like Salim (Stoudamire) but you don't realize that if you have a hand in his face, it's just not enough. You really get to respect how good these guys really are."

In turn, the players respect him and the relationships he has built within the team, he said.

"He's kind of like my brother," Frye said. "We definitely have grown a lot on and off the court, and I think that's why we respect him so much not only as a manager but as a man."

Coming into his first season, Williams said he couldn't help but to be mesmerized by the talent on the floor.

"When you first walk in, you're like this dweeby little kid. I'm not going to lie, I was kind of star struck," Williams said. "But after four years, it's more that I'm here to help you guys. Whatever I can do. I haven't scored a single point in four years being here, but I definitely think I've helped guys like Salim."

When Stoudamire wants to come in and shoot at 10 o'clock at night, Williams is there rebounding for him. So when he made the game-winning shot against UCLA and again at ASU, nobody felt better than Williams.

"If that's the result of him having confidence because he got more shots up this week after practice, that right there makes all of it worth it," Williams said.

Williams' time at Arizona has been filled with memories of Pac-10 championships and first-round losses, of big wins and big disappointments, but what he will remember most is the little things he did with the team.

"There have been a ton on the court and off," Williams said of his

memories. "There's nothing like it. Just (going through) the ups and downs from last year, where we would go home after games feeling so down in the dumps, to this year having everything clicking at the right time."

Williams said he will miss the camaraderie between the guys, the road trips and the excitement of the next game. He wants to win just like every guy on the team.

"I really do feel like I'm part of the team," Williams said.

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