LaDazhia Williams has proven she is a statesman off the basketball court as well as on it.
Unable to sign an official letter of intent until Nov. 9, the Lakewood Ranch High School star wanted her future college coach to not to worry losing her No. 1 recruit.
So shortly after going to Columbia to tell Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley she was coming to South Carolina next season, Williams canceled the four official visits she had scheduled: Notre Dame, Tennessee, Florida State and Ohio State.
“It came down to South Carolina and Notre Dame and when I was with coach Staley on Saturday I didn’t see the point of visiting any other school. This is where I want to be. I didn’t need to see anybody else,” Williams said.
Besides the camaraderie she felt with the players, this looks like a match made in heaven. The 6-foot-4 Williams is Staley’s No. 1 recruit, and the hall of fame coach wants to take advantage and develop a skill set that Williams covets.
She plans to use Williams at the four position, facing the basket for her Gamecocks who like to run the floor every chance they get. Run and gun sounded awfully good to Williams.
“She told me to work on my outside shot and that we are going to run, which are two things I love to do,” Williams said. “South Carolina plays fast paced, pushing the ball and using post players to run. I fit in well with that style.”
Williams enters her senior year ranked first in program history with 147 blocks and ranks second with 1,456 points and 769 rebounds. She trails Kristen Fulmer, who finished her career with 1,509 points and 1,010 rebounds.
Williams averaged 15.8 points, 6.9 points and 2.2 blocks last season. She missed some games because of an injury and finished with 396 points, down from the career-high 595 points she scored as a sophomore in averaging a double-double (19.8 points/10.2 rebs).
Lakewood Ranch head coach Tina Hadley said their fans will get to see a preview this season of the type of game Williams will play in college.
“Coach Staley said LaDazhia was the perfect fit for her program. She has a high ceiling and is very versatile,” Hadley said. “She can shoot 3-pointers, has a good mid-range jumper and her ball handling has improved. She is going to play a lot on the perimeter for us and shoot from the outside. When we play against the big teams, she might go down in the post a little.”
Williams, who turned 18 on Sept. 13, will be walking into a winning program that is on the cusp of a national title.
She did her homework in choosing to play for Daley, who was one of the most coveted female basketball players of all time, a three-time Olympian who was voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
She took over a downtrodden South Carolina program in 2008 and, after two losing seasons, has turned things around, taking the Gamecocks to five straight NCAA tournament appearances, including the Final Four in 2015 when her team was ranked first nationally for the first time in school history. Under her guidance the program has won two SEC regular titles and one SEC tournament.
“Coach Staley has done a lot as a basketball player and as a coach and off the court she is a very good person.” Williams said. “I would like to play professionally someday, and I think she could help me. My favorite player in the WNBA is Candace Parker. I like her versatility.”
Williams’ presence has earned the Mustangs an invitation to the prestigious She Got Game Classic in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 9-12.
More than 100 teams from around the world have been invited, including two from Florida: Lakewood Ranch and Boca Raton.
Unfortunately from a local standpoint, Lakewood Ranch and Southeast, the area’s two best girls teams, are not going to play next season. The reason given is scheduling