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Energy Drives UCLA Commit Jada Williams into FIBA U17 World Cup

  • Author:
    Santosh Venkataraman, Red Line Editorial
  • Date:
    Jul 13, 2022

 

The words arrive quickly to describe Jada Williams, a USA Basketball Women’s U17 National Team player, UCLA commit and budding social media mogul.

 

“She’s just so energetic, so fun to be around,” U.S. teammate Mackenly Randolph said. “She’s always laughing and trying to bring everybody up. She’s amazing to be around and just fun to hang out with.”

 

Added another teammate, Judea “Juju” Watkins: “She’s really great. She’s like our burst of energy, she’s always full of energy. It’s amazing, so it’s great having her.”

 

Williams has always carried that same energy as a 5-foot-8 sparkplug at point guard who often has the ball and draws the most attention on the court. She stays in the spotlight off the court, too, and how could you not as a rising high school senior with her laundry list of extracurriculars?

 

Film a commercial and gain sponsorships with Portland Trail Blazers star and Olympic champion Damian Lillard? Check.

 

Sign an NIL deal before senior year of high school? Check.

 

Represent the legacy of the late Kobe and Gigi Bryant? Check.

 

Develop a social media presence that rivals current WNBA stars through Instagram, TikTok and other outlets? A big check with 631K followers on Instagram.

 

The effervescent Williams may be as well known for her Instagram Live sessions and ubiquitous social media presence as for her basketball. Yet she makes sure none of it is getting in the way of her on the floor.

 

“Social media is something that we all love to do. Everyone loves to go on my live, my teammates love it, we do have a lot of fun with that,” she said. “I think that’s the way we team bond, but I think I’ve learned over the years how to separate those two. Basketball comes first, social media comes next.”

 

Williams is getting ready for her second straight year with USA Basketball after her U16 team won six consecutive games and rolled to the gold medal in the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. The competition was expected to be even fiercer July 9-17 at the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup in Debrecen, Hungary.

 

“I’m excited to play some different teams, different styles of play,” Williams said. “It’s really fun to have those close, tight games and winning that gold is what I’m most looking forward to.”

 

Williams recently wrapped up her first season at La Jolla Country Day School in the San Diego area following a move from Blue Springs, Missouri. A UCLA commit, Williams joined forces at La Jolla with longtime friend and USA Basketball teammate Breya Cunningham, an Arizona commit who is one of the best post players in the country, to form a lethal inside-outside combination.

 

Williams and Cunningham are inseparable and have grown even closer playing together so regularly now, although that will change in college.

 

“Breya and I have been around each other for a long time since middle school, been at the same camps, played on teams together, but being around Breya every day, everyone has told me that I’ve kind of brought her out of her shell a little bit,” Williams said. “But seeing somebody every day, there’s no way you can’t be best friends.”

 

While Williams has sponsorship deals with Spalding and Move insoles in conjunction with Lillard, it is her connection with the Bryant family that is most meaningful. She wears two of Kobe Bryant’s numbers, 10 and 24, as well as wearing No. 2 to honor Gigi. Kobe Bryant wore No. 10 with the U.S. Olympic Team, and jerseys 8 and 24 in the NBA.

 

“Kobe was definitely a huge role model for me, he was definitely like an uncle to me,” Williams said. “He was always checking up on me in high school. He definitely took me under his wing like he did with a lot of his girls.”

 

The move to California has not only brought Williams to a higher level of competition, but also increased her connections with the NBA world.

 

LeBron (James) had come to my game last year at Nike Nationals. … I work out with Kelly Oubre (Charlotte Hornets). Instagram has really helped with that. I’m just soaking it all up and trying to learn from the best and creating those relationships that will last forever.”

 

One example of her savviness was signing the NIL deal that brought her more notoriety and made her a trail blazer of sorts.

 

“Everyone is just starting it figure it out now. It’s about a year old so everyone is still new to it,” she said. “I think it’s a really cool and unique space that we get to work through as young athletes, how to manage money at a young age. I think it can definitely be taken as negative, but if you look at it positively, then it can be used for the right reasons.”

 

For now, the focus for her is on winning another gold medal with USA Basketball. The U.S. enters the Round of 16 after securing the top seed of their group with a 3-0 record.

 

“I think the teams that we are playing are bigger and much more fundamental,” she said. "Going overseas is a lot different than going over to Mexico and playing like we did, so I think the Americas and the World Cup is definitely different.

 

“Everybody has a gold-medal mentality right now,” she added.

 

Santosh Venkataraman is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

 

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  • Author:
    Santosh Venkataraman, Red Line Editorial
  • Date:
    Jul 14, 2022

"Juju” Watkins, Mackenly Randolph play together at Sierra Canyon School and won the California Open state title in 2022.

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