In a whirlwind two months, LaDazhia Williams went from one of the most prized recruits available in the Class of 2017 to locked in with her choice.
At the start of September, the star of the Lakewood Ranch High School girls basketball team was a five-star prospect, according to ESPN, with visits planned to Florida State, Florida, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Ohio State. However, she orally committed to South Carolina during an official visit to Columbia, S.C., cancelled her other visits and signed a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday in the auditorium at Lakewood Ranch.
“When I went up there, I was so comfortable with the coaches and the school, and I like the area that the school is around,” Williams said. “The coaches are just so good, and they have a good relationship with the players.
“When I felt that I fit in to South Carolina, I didn’t want to wait any longer. I just wanted to commit to a school that liked me and I liked them.”
Williams, who is ranked No. 47 in ESPN’s HoopGurlz recruiting rankings for the Class of 2017, was one of nine Mustangs across six sports to take part in the fall signing ceremony. All committed to Division I schools.
Williams, a center and small forward, is likely to play power forward at USC. She was the Herald’s All-Area Player of the Year each of the past two seasons and led Lakewood Ranch to the Class 7A semifinals for the first time last season. Williams averaged 15.8 points and 6.9 rebounds during the Mustangs’ run, although those averages were down from 19.8 and 10.2 the year before. At 6 feet, 3 inches, she prides herself on her perimeter skills and 3-point range for someone her size.
The Gamecocks are committed to taking advantage of that.
“LaDazhia is a skilled post player who can face up and also score at the rim,” USC head coach Dawn Staley said in a press release. “We expect her to have an immediate impact within our post play. She is capable of dominating with her rebounding and demands to be guarded with her skill set. She’s a shot blocker, too.”
Williams’ final season at Lakewood Ranch begins Wednesday, when the Mustangs host Sarasota Riverview. In some ways, Wednesday’s signing was the culmination of what is already one of the best careers in the history of Manatee County. But it’s also the start of a final chapter — one Williams hopes will conclude with a storybook ending in Lakeland in late February.
“I just couldn’t believe this moment was happening,” Williams said. “It just came by so quick and the four years just went by so fast.”
Nov. 9-Wednesday — All sports except football, soccer and water polo.
Dec. 14-Jan. 15 — Football (midyear, junior college transfers)
Feb. 1-April 1 — Football
Feb. 1-Aug. 1 — Soccer and men’s water polo.
April 12-May 17— Division I basketball
April 12-Aug. 1 — All sports other than football, soccer, men’s water polo and Div. I basketball.