The debate when it comes to Owatonna junior Brayden Williams is whether he was born with his silky outside jumper or whether it’s the result of meticulous hard work and countless hours spent in the gym.
“I mean, I think he’s born with it,” Owatonna boys basketball coach — and father of Brayden — Josh Williams said over the phone with a hearty laugh exposing his true answer.
In reality, and as is the case with most high-level athletes, Brayden’s deadly 3-point shot is the result of both genetics and effort. And that shot played a major role in Brayden being named the Owatonna People’s Press All-Area boys basketball Player of the Year.
“He’s worked hard, he’s put in a lot of hours since he was a little guy...It’s paid off,” the elder Williams said.
Brayden has virtually lived in the gym since he was child according to Josh Williams, who began coaching the Owatonna boys basketball team nearly two decades ago. Basketball is his primary sport and over the years he has played at every level, from youth traveling ball to the AAU circuit.
His willingness and propensity to hoist 3-point shots from well-beyond the arc has become his calling card of sort throughout his young varsity career. Brayden led the Huskies in 3-pointers attempted (150), 3-pointers made (63) and 3-point field goal percentage (42.0%) this past season en route to averaging 21.9 points per game.
However, while his shooting is prolific, and arguably his best overall attribute, it’s his wingspan that gives him a distinct advantage over opposing guards.
“One of the traits that a lot of [recruiters] look at is wingspan in relation to a player’s height. He’s got about a [6-foot-5-inch or 6-foot-6-inch] wingspan for being a 6-foot-2-inch guard,” Josh Williams said, a trait he claims comes from his wife’s side of the family. “Does it become an advantage? Sure it does. Whether it’s being able to get your shot off...it obviously gives you an advantage on rebounding. He gets a lot of tips, a lot of steals. He’s deceptively long that way, just because most guys at his height don’t have that wingspan.”
Brayden was second on the Huskies in both rebounds (118) and steals (59) this past season, due in large part to his wingspan.
However, while Brayden’s all-around skill set is well put-together, especially for a high school athlete who is not yet even a senior, there are a still few areas in which he can improve to take his game to the next level.
“I think his skill set is extremely, extremely high. For him, I think [the things that he needs to improve the most] are strength and quickness,” Josh Williams said.
It’s difficult to find an athlete who has ever been hampered by improving his strength, speed and agility and Brayden would be no exception. Gaining some extra muscle and lateral quickness would not only make him an even better rebounder and defender, but it would also improve Brayden’s ability to finish around the rim. This is another skill Josh Williams admits could use a little bit of polish, though he is quick to say that Brayden has already improved greatly since the beginning of his sophomore season.
“The biggest [leap] he made in the last year was his ability to get to the basket and his mid-range,” Josh Williams said. “He was a really good shooter last year as well, but that was the part of his game that we spent a lot of time [this last offseason] working on.”
Josh Williams believes that if he continues to improve his finishing, mid-range skills and overall playmaking, Brayden’s game will be catapulted to the next level, which may place him among the some of the greatest to ever don an Owatonna basketball jersey.
Brayden will partake in the AAU circuit again the spring and summer, playing with Minnesota Rise, a team based out of Mankato. There is perhaps no more important time in the world of college basketball recruiting than the summer before one’s senior year and with his performance this past season, Brayden has built up a head of steam that should be very appealing to many college coaches.