Third Time Is Charmed For Courtney Williams
In her third time around with USA Basketball, Courtney Williams (Texas A&M/Houston, Texas) was named as a member of the 2015 U.S. Pan American Games Women’s Basketball Team back on May 17, 2015.
“I think I did play well,” the 6-foot-1 forward said of her performance at trials for the team. “I think I did all of the little things. My shot wasn’t really falling. Before I got to the trials, I was working on my shot and it was falling. So, I guess that didn’t really matter.”
Back in 2009, Williams tried out for her first USA Basketball squad, which was the 2009 USA U16 National Team, and in 2012 she tried out of for the USA U18 National Team.
“I remember my first trials experience my freshman year (of high school),” Williams said. “I remember all of the players that were there. My roommate was Elizabeth Williams from Duke. I remember it was my first time seeing Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis). I didn’t know that there were that many players around the country that were as good as me. It was a good learning experience, too. So, it got me better.”
Not making those two USA Basketball teams did not deter Williams; it taught her about her skill set.
“It was motivation,” Williams explained. “I got in the gym and worked on the things that they said I should work on in the evaluation, like my ball handling and my jump shot. I think I always rebound well.
“It was motivation. I started watching basketball a lot more. My IQ got better.”
Williams’ education as a basketball player, of course, did not begin or end once she had a better understanding of her competition throughout the country. Taking her game from North Shore High School (Texas) to Texas A&M University as a college freshman in 2012-13, Williams was challenged by the new pace.
“Going into college, it was kind of rough from the start for me,” Williams admitted. “I didn’t know how to relax and play at the same time, how to do well and do the little things well, because I was always better than everyone. But at the college level, you are not better than everyone. Coach Blair, he helped me out a lot, the coaching staff, coach Starkey; and watching Kevin Durant play, and Kyrie Irving. Making the game slow for me, doing the little things and being smart, that’s my main focus every time I step on the court.
“I started understanding when I got to college how to relax and play, be smarter than everybody on the court.”
After helping A&M to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 as a freshman and the 2014 Elite Eight as a sophomore, Williams averaged 14.8 points per game as a junior this past season in 2014-15 to help her team to a 23-10 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
“Right now, my focus is on winning a gold medal,” Williams explained. “Then when I go back to school, getting a national championship and making it as far as I can. Making my teammates better; tell them how I learned from these other great players and what they can do to get better at their position – what I’ve seen Breanna Stewart doing at the four that makes her special. Helping my teammates and being a leader.”
Williams also is learning from the USA staff of head coach Lisa Bluder (Iowa) and assistant coaches Michelle Clark-Heard (Western Kentucky) and Scott Rueck (Oregon State).
“They tell us to move without the ball, be smart, set screens hard, which our coaches at A&M tell us, too, but if you see other programs stressing that, that must mean that on the next level it is going to be real important,” Williams said. “Stressing good passes, cutting hard, going to the offensive boards every time, little stuff like that. That is what separates great players.”
Some time around high school, Williams realized she would someday like to play in the WNBA and become a basketball coach – specifically one of the first women’s head coaches in Division I men’s college basketball.
“I just love basketball,” Williams said. “I just love to play basketball. And then it’s like, when I’m watching Kyrie Irving play, in July and June when we are not playing anymore, and in May and I’m watching Kevin Durant play, I will look up some of the highlights, and that just motivates me to go do a move that they do, or go get in the gym.
“I don’t like to just play; I like to learn about the game, get my IQ higher. I really like Coach K. I want to do something for the first time that a woman hasn’t really done, so I want to be the first female Division I men’s coach. That’s a pretty good goal. I love basketball, I love to teach people and I love to analyze the game.”
In the near future, however, Williams and the USA will take on senior national teams from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean in the Pan American Games women’s basketball competition from July 16-20 in Toronto, Canada.
“I do have a lot of support at home, my dad, my grandmother, my coaches, my teammates – they were excited when I made the team,” Williams said. “I just have a lot of support, my high school coach, friends, family, all of that. That feels pretty good to know that they are behind me every step of the way.
“It’s special,” Williams said of her USA jersey. “I’m playing against international pros, and I’m playing with great college players. You’re not always better than everybody, so it will be good to have that USA across my chest and represent my country. I just love that.”
Follow Williams and the U.S. team on Twitter at #USABwpag.
USA versus Brazil at 9 p.m. EDT on July 16
USA versus Dominican Republic at 9 p.m. EDT on July 17
USA versus Puerto Rico at 9 p.m. on July 18
Semifinals on July 19
Finals on July 20