In his first season at UW, undersized low-post player has shown that he's not afraid to demonstrate his touch around the basket.

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A reporter is asking Washington forward Jamaal Williams a question that begins with the phrase “everybody says you” when a Huskies assistant coach breaks in and finishes it.



“Everybody says you don’t pass the ball,” the coach says to Williams with a laugh.



In fact, not only do many people say that, but some Huskies fans have taken to counting the number of times Williams touches the ball vs. the number of shots he takes. Often, the numbers aren’t far apart.



But when you’re shooting 58 percent and averaging almost 12 points in fewer than 20 minutes, why bother passing?



Still, it’s something he hears about from coaches and teammates.



“Yeah, they look at my assists (eight in 10 games) and give me a hard time,” Williams said. “But it’s all in good fun. They know when I get it, I’m looking to score or make a play.”



And more often than not through the nonconference season, Williams has come through, emerging as the team’s best low-post scoring option — he has averaged 20.5 points in UW’s past two games.





















Today
Washington vs. California, 1:30 p.m., FSN

The question now is whether Williams — who at 6 feet 5 almost always gives up at least a couple of inches to his defender — can continue to be as effective as the Huskies enter Pac-10 play, which begins today with a 1:30 p.m. game at Edmundson Pavilion against California.



Washington players have little doubt. They became sold on Williams, who transferred to UW last season after playing his first two seasons at New Mexico, during practices last season and again during summer workouts.



Teammate Brandon Roy remembers a day when Williams was able to consistently score on Reggie Evans of the Sonics during a pickup game.



“You see him get his shot up over those guys and it was like, ‘Yeah, he really is good,’ ” Roy said.



Still, even Roy felt compelled to fib about Williams’ height when talking about him to friends who would ask about the team’s lack of a regularly contributing player taller than 6-8.



“People would ask me, ‘Who’s going to be in the low post?’ and I would say, ‘We’ve got this guy who is 6-6-1/2,” Roy said. “I didn’t want to answer the whole question about why he’s so small. But it’s just one of those deals where he is just so efficient down there. I can’t explain it. I’m just happy we have him.”



Even if the ball often goes into Williams and never comes back out.



“Hey, if it comes and I have the opportunity for an assist, I’m more than happy to give the ball up,” Williams said.



Roy says teammates mostly tell Williams to be more patient, that he might get a better shot if he kicks the ball back out and waits for it to come back inside.



“But we’re so guard-oriented, you think, ‘This is my chance to get off a shot,’ ” Roy said. “He is so confident in his abilities that he thinks he always has a good shot, and you don’t want to take that away from him.”



Williams has been so effective that he has already attained a level of respect from coach Lorenzo Romar, who considers Williams among those players on the team — such as Tre Simmons and Nate Robinson — who don’t have to worry much about having their shot selection questioned.



“We try not to say a whole lot to scorers,” Romar said. “And he’s proven that. He’s always scored wherever he’s been. As long as he’s taking good shots, we’re not going to say much to him.”



Williams acknowledges, though, that he might have to think more about passing the ball back out now that he is getting double-teamed more often.



This weekend figures to be as good a barometer as any whether Williams will be able to be as proficient in the Pac-10 as the Huskies take on the two Bay Area teams, each historically known for their bulk and physical play inside. Cal, for instance, is scheduled to start two 6-10 players and one at 6-8, and can bring three more players 6-7 or taller off the bench. And Stanford features 6-11 Matt Haryasz and 6-10 Rob Little.



“The first thing that jumps out at you about them is that they are big,” Romar said of the Bears.



But Williams has heard the “too-small” talk much of his life. It’s why he spent hours in the gym perfecting a hook shot, often his key weapon against taller foes.



“Going up against bigger guys hasn’t bothered me at all,” Williams said. “It’s just like ‘OK, here’s another big guy. Let’s go up against him.’ ”





Notes



• Roy is likely to see an increase in playing time. But until Roy is 100 percent, Romar said he plans to continue bringing him off the bench.



• Reserve forward Hakeem Rollins, who missed the last three games with a knee injury, is back and ready to play as much as needed.



• Robinson found out after playing Cal last year that he is related through marriage to Bears guard Marquise Kately. Robinson said his father, Jacque, married Kately’s aunt.



• Cal is without forward Leon Powe, who led the team in scoring and rebounding a year ago but is out for the season with a knee injury. The Bears are also without starting point guard Ayinde Ubaka, who should return in the next few weeks from a foot injury suffered in November. That leaves Cal with just eight healthy scholarship players.



Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com