“I knew she was going to be a good athlete, knew that the sky was the limit,” Cates said. “She is still raw in some of her talent. It’s been fun to watch her grow.”
However, if you ask Williams to talk Lady Warriors basketball, the junior has more to say about her team than herself. Williams said that, when the team needs her to step up against a tough opponent, she is more than happy to fill the role.
However, when the game isn’t tight, she thinks more about her teammates.
“You can’t do it without them,” Williams said. “I think I’m decent, but could do better, defensive-wise. If we play a team where I have to get after it, my stats seem higher. But if we play a team that is just OK, I focus on my team more.”
In a game against Wheeler last week, Williams was called upon, and she took control with 29 points.
“I felt the need to take the game onto my shoulders a bit more,” said Williams, who said her confidence didn’t waiver. “We just have to think positive, and if I stay positive and motivate my team, they feed off that.”
Cates says simply having Williams on the court makes the difference. With her broad wing span, she is a natural in the paint. Her specialty is steals, but she is equally strong on offense and is quickly approaching her 1,000th career point. Getting 1,000 rebounds also appears to be a likelihood.
“Her presence is the biggest thing for us,” Cates said. “She spends a huge amount of energy trying to score for us in the paint. It takes a lot of pressure off the guards, as far as scoring-wise.
“She’s valuable. We feed off her energy. She is a huge team player and willing to do about anything we ask of her for the team.”
Sara Byers, who has played alongside Williams for several years, said her teammate has the ability to boost morale.
“Sometimes, we get down, but she can really bring us back up with her hustle, her big layups and her moves in the post,” Byers said. “She really brings us back and she hypes us up well.”
Williams, who lettered during her freshman and sophomore seasons, didn’t always have such a positive outlook. She says the success the Lady Warriors are having this season makes it easier.
Heading into Tuesday’s game with Lassiter, Cherokee (17-1, 8-0 Region 5AAAAAA) had a one-game lead over Woodstock atop the region standings. The Lady Warriors have an 11-game winning streak going, and their only loss of the season came to Creekview, by a five-point margin on Dec. 8.
Last season, Cherokee reached the state playoffs but it fell to Alpharetta in the opening round. The season before that, it missed the playoffs altogether.
Williams has made it her goal this season to get the Lady Warriors back to the playoffs — preferably to at least the quarterfinals. But first, she would like a region title.
“That’s something that is really big for me and for our team,” she said. “We know that we can do it this year.”
Entering the season, Cates knew Williams would be a key component to the team, as she had been in her first two seasons.
“On any given night, she is one of the best athletes out there,” Cates said. “I think she has been one of the top players in the county every year.”
As much as Williams has improved, Cates only sees her getting better from here.
“I think her skill set has improved — her maturity and comprehension for what we are trying to do and how we do it,” Cates said. “She really can go far.”