|Kelly Williams has been really hard for opponents to stop, averaging 21.2 points per game for her career.
Randolph-Macon photo by Frank Strauss
By Brian Lester
Kelly Williams doesn’t go into a game expecting to score 38 points, grab 20 rebounds and block a handful of shots.
But for someone who isn’t trying to dominate a game, the Randolph-Macon forward does a pretty good job of it.
“I’m not trying to score a bunch of points and get a bunch of rebounds,” Williams said. “It just kind of happens. I let the game come to me. That’s why I don’t really feel like there is a lot of pressure on me.”
Williams is a special talent, and quite frankly, that label might be an understatement. It’s not often, after all, that you find a sophomore who leads the nation in scoring (25.3) and rebounding (18.1) and who happens to rank first in blocked shots per game as well (4.0). She goes into Saturday’s game vs. Emory & Henry just two points short of 1,000 for her career, just 47 games in.
All players dream of having success at the college level. But to be as good as Williams is so early into a career? Well, that’s a little crazy.
“I never imagined in a million years that I’d be doing this well,” Williams said.
Call that statement a cliché if you must, but Williams means every word. And for the record, she didn’t choose R-MC simply because of its tradition of basketball success. A lot more went into making one of the biggest decisions of her life to the point.
In fact, basketball was secondary.
“When I was looking at schools, I wanted to go somewhere where I could succeed academically,” Williams said. “I focused not on the program but the people I was going to play with. The success I’m having is nice but I’m more looking forward to the success I’ll have the rest of my life.”
Williams reminds long-time R-MC coach Carroll LaHaye of another Yellow Jackets’ great, that being Megan Silva Schultz. The three-time D3hoops.com All-America selection and 2006 D3hoops.com Player of the Year graduated in 2006 as the most accomplished athlete in program history, scoring more points (2,371), dishing out more assists (700) and racking up more steals (446) than any other player in school or ODAC history.
Granted, Silva was a point guard, but the two share some similarities.
“They are both bright women and neither one of them likes practice,” LeHaye said. “Megan never liked practicing, but boy, when game day came around, she showed up. Kelly is the same type of player. She’ll tell you she’d rather play than go through those tough hours of practice.”
Williams hasn’t had any trouble showing up on game day. She has scored 30-plus five times and has scored less than 20 only twice. Seven times this season, Williams has snagged at least 20 rebounds while blocking four or more shots nine times, including nine twice.
“Practice is important but games are where you get to show off all of the practice you put in,” Williams said. “There is just more hype to game days. Your friends and family are there, and after the game, you get to see your family and your stats. No one keeps stats in practice. The other thing is you get to see what you did well and what you didn’t do well after a game.”
Expectations were high for Williams coming into the season considering she was the ODAC Rookie of the Year in 2016-17.
“She had a great freshman season and I knew the potential was there for her to get better and be an even bigger factor in our success,” LeHaye said. “I’m not really surprised at what she is doing because she put in the work in the offseason to improve. It’s paying off.”
Like her teammates, Williams was given a workout book to follow over the summer. She did that to an extent.
“I won’t say I followed it to a T, but I was in the gym a lot more in the summer,” Williams said. “I’m playing more minutes, too, and that helps with stats. But I owe credit to my teammates for my success. I couldn’t do it without them. I love playing with them. We have great chemistry and have a lot of fun.”
Williams may indeed be in the spotlight but the Yellow Jackets, at 16-3 on the season, are not a one-player show.
Recruited as a shooting guard, Kelsey Wisner has developed into a great point guard and is averaging 6.2 points per outing and has dished out 42 assists. Jayla Wade has earned a reputation as a defensive stopper, racking up 24 steals. She takes pride in stopping the other team’s best scorer.
Charlotte Woods and Teal Reynolds are the other two starters on the 10-player roster and both have been solid contributors as well. Woods has over-the-top athleticism and is considered the most improved on the team, stepping up as both a rebounder and defensive player. Reynolds is the one who does the little things that never show up in a box score.
“When you look at what each one brings, they amaze each other,” LeHaye said. “Everyone has a job and they understand what needs to be done for us to be successful.”
The Yellow Jackets are pushing to keep that success rolling. They are tied atop the ODAC standings with Lynchburg, boasting an 8-2 conference mark, and they entered the final week of January having won their last six games.
Only a win shy of matching last season’s win total, the Yellow Jackets are poised to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014. It would be the 11th appearance in program history.
Williams wants nothing more to make it happen.
“We want a conference championship,” Williams said. We also want to make it to the NCAA tournament and make a run. That would be great experience,” Williams said. “We just have to give everything we have and keep taking it one game at a time.”
Ephriam Price lit up the scoreboard for 31 points for Concordia (Texas) in a 95-94 win over Sul Ross State last Thursday. Concordia snapped a two-game losing streak and Price hit the 30-point mark for the third consecutive game. He highlighted his effort by drilling five 3-pointers. Price is averaging 19 points per outing and became the 15th player in program history to get to 1,000 points in a 101-100 loss to Dallas earlier this month.
Kendall Rollins stole the show for Mary Hardin-Baylor in its 90-68 win over Sul Ross State Saturday, recording a double-double to help the Cru stretch its win streak to three. Rollins finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Averaging 15.6 points and 6.5 rebounds, the sophomore guard has been sensational and is a two-time ASC West Division Player of the Week.
LaGrange didn’t come out on top on the scoreboard Saturday, falling 75-61 to Maryville, but it was a big day for two Panthers on a personal level. Lauren Johnson became the fourth in program history to reach the 1,000-point milestone, scoring 11 to push her career total to 1,007. Jeris Johnson blocked five shots to become the all-time leader in blocks (77).
Jackson Whitley never seems to stop making great impression on game day. In Sunday’s 81-66 win over Averett, Whitley scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to record his eighth double-double of the season. Whitley also blocked three shots and tallied two steals. He leads the team in blocks (48) and is tied for second in steals (22).
Guilford won its fourth consecutive game Saturday, defeating Washington and Lee 81-70. Winners of six of their last seven overall, the Quakers moved another game above .500, improving to 11-8 overall and to 7-3 in the ODAC. Carson Long recorded a double-double for the third game in a row, scoring 16 points and snagging 12 rebounds.
After dropping nine of 10, Millsaps has seen its fortunes change. The Majors won their second consecutive game Sunday, overcoming a 10-point deficit to win 70-64 over Berry. Michael Sullivan poured in 18 points to help the Majors win their second consecutive game. A transfer from Texas Lutheran -- he played two seasons for the Bulldogs -- Sullivan leads the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game.