The last time that Encino (Calif.) Crespi three-star point guard Brandon Williams was at Haas Pavilion, he was winning a state title. In that game, the 2018 prospect scored seven points and dished out two assists in the 47-44 win, and on Friday, he came back, but it was to a much different Haas Pavilion.
"There were so many memories, walking down the hallway," Williams said. "I was here before, and I had memories of going in, just so many memories. The last time I played in there, which was last March, when we played state, they really put a lot of work into that arena, re-doing the floors and everything. The arena was the thing that stuck out the most."
Williams -- who flew up -- and his parents -- who drove up -- were visiting Berkeley for the first time in a recruiting capacity, but the Cal coaching staff -- which was in the stands for the state title games -- had already seen him. In fact, they saw him over the summer, too. Williams, though, had finished his freshman year with a 2.5 GPA. The coaching staff told his coaches that he needed to get that up. Sure enough, this year, Williams has a 3.3 GPA.
"I did really bad last year," Williams admits. "This year, I'm at a 3.3 as of right now. It's a good turnaround. I've started to focus more on school, first, and basketball, second. Back in July, before school even started, Cal was recruiting me, and they were asking how this kid plays, and my coaches said I was a good player, and the question after that was, 'How are his grades?' They said my grades aren't that good. They didn't stop talking to my dads and my coaches. They knew that I could push through it. This year, I'm really kicking it into a different gear."
He said that Cal "most definitely" spurred him to kick his academics into another gear, because, he said, "it's a really good school, a really good school."
Of course, getting to the next level doesn't just involve hard work in the classroom.
"Me and Roman [Davis] were the closest out of anybody there. Me and Roman, we're both L.A. guys. He went to Windward, and I go to Crespi -- not too far from Windward," Williams said. "We were talking about the hard work it takes to get to Cal, and how the coaching there compares with the coaching at Windward and other schools in L.A. Me and Roman have a really good relationship."
The No. 1 point guard in the state of California for the 2018 class, has gotten attention from Arizona, Arizona State, USC, Grand Canyon, Virginia, NC State and Pepperdine.
In fact, Pepperdine's scrimmage was the first he's attended this fall, and he said Cal's effort in the Blue and Gold Scrimmage on Friday night far outpaced the Waves.
"I think it was very planned out," Williams said. "I went to Pepperdine's scrimmage, and they just passed the ball around. They were just playing. They didn't have any plays or anything. At Cal, it was more organized, and they actually ran their stuff, and actually played basketball, and got after it."
Before Friday's Blue and Gold Scrimmage, Williams and the other recruits in attendance -- fellow 2018 prospect Wayne Arnold, 2016 commit Oscar Frayer, 2016 official visitor Charlie Moore, 2017 Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon forward Ira Lee and 2017 commit Alec Hickman -- sat and chatted with assistant Yanni Hufnagel.
"My contact was coach Yanni, and he's a funny guy," Williams said. "He's a really funny guy, but also a caring guy. Their whole coaching staff is really, deep-down personal with you. They want you to feel welcome. They don't want you to feel not welcomed or not comfortable at all. I felt really comfortable around those guys."
"I hung out with Ivan, and with Jaylen, Roman and Jabari. I hung out with all those guys," he said. "We played Playstation, XBOX, built some good bonds and relationships, a big brother-little brother type thing. They were awesome guys, awesome guys."
Williams also talked with the Director of Academic Development, Dr. Kasra Sotudeh.
"He was telling me about the transition from high school to college," Williams said. "He was explaining how he went to school, and the transition period from being a senior in high school to being a freshman in college, and how big a step that's going to be."
Williams spent Friday and Saturday on campus, breaking away from the football game on Saturday at halftime to rattle around campus with the current players.
"It was just for me to bond with the coaches, with the players, meet the staff, hang out with some of the guys, and get to know the campus more," he said. "They have a lot of historical buildings."