Elizabeth Williams Always Eager to Play for the Red, White & Blue
USA and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley introduced several new offensive sets on Friday as her team continued its preparations for the 2018 FIBA World Cup.
Elizabeth Williams (Atlanta Dream) had no trouble hopping on board.
The 6-foot-3 forward/center stepped right in and looked comfortable during a scrimmage near the end of practice. Williams didn’t show any signs that this was her first day with the team after falling just short of a WNBA Finals berth with a Game 5 semifinal loss to the Washington Mystics three days earlier.
Williams took a flight from Atlanta Friday morning to make it to the New York Knicks practice facility in time to take part in the 10:30 a.m. practice.
“Generally speaking, these pro offenses are kind of similar,” Williams said. “Whether I’ve seen other teams in the WNBA run them, or just being around basketball. I pick up some of these plays a little more quickly.”
Her goal earlier this week had been to prepare for Friday’s Game 1 of the WNBA Finals against the Seattle Storm, but Tuesday’s 86-81 loss changed that.
The playoff elimination was tough for Williams and her teammates, but by the next morning she already had sent an email to USA Basketball Women’s National Team director Carol Callan asking when she could join the USA team.
Williams needed just a few days to get her mind off of the semifinals loss before refocusing on reaching the FIBA World Cup in Tenerife, Spain.
“Obviously, right after the game is hard,” Williams said. “You work so hard and you want to go to the Finals to win a championship, but we also reflected and felt like Atlanta has come a really long way. We’re going to continue to build with that franchise, and now it was just about moving forward.”
Putting on a USA jersey is nothing new for Williams, who was named the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship MVP. She was a member of junior, gold medal USA teams in 2009 (U16), 2010 (U17) and 2011 (U19). Now she’s hoping to win one at the highest level.
Looking back on her first USA camp as a teenager has much to do with why Williams was so eager to join this year. Williams recalls being told that part of the purpose of joining the junior team is to eventually become a member of the senior national team, and nearly a decade later she is competing for a spot on the 12-person roster.
“It’s actually really cool to see this whole thing come to fruition from that day,” she said. “It’s good to be in the pipeline. I love any opportunity I have to play USA Basketball.”
Williams will be representing the USA at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8 when it takes on Canada in an exhibition game at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The USA Basketball Women’s National Team never has won three consecutive FIBA World Cups, and it has a chance to do just that this year after winning back-to-back gold medals for a fourth time in 2010 and 2014.
Staley said player sacrifices such as the ones Williams is choosing to make allow USA Basketball to continue to compete at a high level.
“That’s what being a pro is all about, having a desire to want to be a part of USA Basketball,” Staley said. “That’s why USA Basketball is always at the top, because we get the most talented, best players in our country to make that type of commitment.”
Frank Bonner II is a contributor to USAB.com as part of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI.
The USA will be in the hunt to earn a 10th World Cup gold medal at the 2018 FIBA World Cup Sept. 22-30 in Tenerife, Spain. Follow along on the team’s journey on usab.com/WNT and through USA Basketball’s social media as the team goes for gold.