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The Times’ boys’ basketball player of the year: Ziaire Williams

Ziaire Williams, with headband, celebrates with Sierra Canyon teammates Amari Bailey, right, and Tookey Wigington (22) after making the game-winning basket as time expired against Etiwanda in the Southern California Open Division final on March 10 at Cal State Northridge.
Ziaire Williams, with headband, celebrates with Sierra Canyon teammates Amari Bailey, right, and Tookey Wigington (22) after making the game-winning basket as time expired against Etiwanda in the Southern California Open Division regional final on March 10 at Cal State Northridge.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The best way to judge an athlete is how they perform in the biggest games of the season, and Ziaire Williams of Chatsworth Sierra Canyon took over during the high school basketball playoffs.

“He was amazing,” coach Andre Chevalier said. “He took his game to the next level.”

When the pressure was most intense and the stakes were highest, Williams repeatedly delivered.

In the Southern Section Open Division final against Santa Ana Mater Dei at The Pyramid, Williams scored 25 points in a 59-48 victory. In the Southern California regional final against Etiwanda at Cal State Northridge, he made the winning shot as the buzzer sounded to give the Trailblazers a 63-61 victory after trailing by 11 points with 2:43 left.

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“It’s always been like that,” the 6-foot-9 senior said of his reaction when the pressure goes up. “My mind naturally tells me to go into kill mode. I’m so competitive.”

Williams always seemed to meet the challenge in the fourth quarter when Sierra Canyon needed him most. He never got to play in the Open Division state championship game in Sacramento because the COVID-19 pandemic forced the tournament to be canceled, but Williams’ final shot against Etiwanda will leave a lasting memory.

Williams has been selected The Times’ player of the year in boys’ basketball for the Southland.

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He averaged 15 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists. His versatility combined with his lanky body made him a player tough to stop when he decided to assert himself at a given moment.

In 21 games for Sierra Canyon after becoming eligible following his transfer from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, he made an impact on offense as a scorer and on defense by blocking shots, rebounding and using his long arms to deflect passes.

Even when opponents guarded him closely, he showed the skills to make shots with a hand in his face. The joke was you have to be 7 feet tall to even make him sweat about getting his shot off.

“My elevation and wingspan helps a lot,” Williams said.

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Williams might be the best uncommitted senior in the nation. UCLA, USC, North Carolina, Arizona and Stanford are the schools he continues to evaluate with no idea when a final decision is coming.

“When I know, I’ll let everyone know,” he said.


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