Elizabeth Williams Has A Midas Touch
July 12, 2011 • Colorado Springs, Colo.
Much like the famed King Midas, it seems as if everything Elizabeth Williams touches turns to gold. The MVP of the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, Williams is a two-time USA Basketball gold medalist, also winning gold at the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship.
The 6-3 center out of Virginia Beach, Va., also helped lead Princess Anne High School to a pair of Virginia Class AAA state titles (2011, 2009), one runner-up finish (2010) and a semifinal berth as a freshman (2008). Capping her high school career with a remarkable 120-6 mark, Williams is heading to Duke in the fall as the No. 2 all-time shot blocker (606) in Virginia girls high school basketball history.
In addition to her basketball prowess, Williams earned a 3.92 GPA while taking advanced and International Baccalaureate classes, and was tabbed All-Beach District in the high jump. She is a two-time Gatorade Virginia Player of the Year and has enough high school accolades – local, state and national – to fill a large trophy case. Not only that, Williams taught herself to juggle and played trombone in her school’s band.
Born in England to Nigerian parents, Dr. Alex and Margaret Williams, Elizabeth is the middle of three children, with a 22-year-old sister, Victoria, and a 9-year-old brother, Mark. The family is very close and by going to Duke, which is less than a four-hour drive from Virginia Beach, Elizabeth knew her family would still be close enough to support her in the stands.
“My family is really important to me,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I chose Duke, it’s pretty close to home. They come with me everywhere, all my games and stuff. They’re a big deal, very important to me.”
Elizabeth doesn’t come from a basketball family, however, she and her father both played soccer. Thankfully for USA Basketball, Elizabeth opted to pursue a hoops career. She and the 2011 USA U19 World Championship Team are currently preparing for their quest of defending the USA’s three consecutive gold medals at the U19 Worlds, which will be held July 21-31 in Puerto Montt, Chile.
Elizabeth sat down with USABasketball.com after the second day of practice to talk about playing for USA Basketball, traveling the world, her Nigerian background and how she learned to juggle.
This is your third summer with USA Basketball, was there any hesitation about playing again?
No. Opportunities like this don’t come very often. So, to be able to play for the USA again is a great opportunity and I wanted to do it again.
Does it help the team chemistry, having so many of you back from the U16 and U17 teams?
Definitely. That’ll really help our chemistry. I love playing with these guys, so it’ll be a fun month.
What do you bring to this team?
Rebounding, shot blocking, low post scoring, I just have to be whatever coach needs me to be. Some games it’ll be rebounding. Some games it’ll be scoring or defense.
How much will it help you, heading into Duke in the fall, playing for college coaches this summer?
The mentality is going to be better going into college, because the college game is a lot more intense. And then conditioning-wise, we have to run more. The team is really defensive-minded and that’s really going to help in college.
Is defense going to be the key to this team?
Yeah, I think so, because we have all these talented offensive players. If we can get our defense down, it’ll be great.
Based on your experience at the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship, who do you think will be some of the toughest teams in the U19 World Championship?
Australia is going to be a tough team, because they have a lot of big players. Spain is tough. France is pretty tough. I think teams like Japan and China, they have a lot of shooters, so that’s where our defense and our close-outs are going to come in. So, I think overall, we can be pretty good.
You’re heading to Duke in the fall. Have you attended summer school or will you arrive early for workouts?
Since the summer school session is going on right now, I haven’t been. So, I’m just going to go in the fall. I’ll probably go there to work out, or work out at home. Either one.
You’ve had an amazing career so far with a bright future still ahead of you. Did you ever think your young career would be so bright when you first picked up the basketball?
When I first started playing, I just thought it was so fun. Then, when I started working with my trainer, she was telling me that I could be a pretty special player and all these things could happen. Now they’re happening, so it’s pretty cool.
You were born in England and lived there for three years before you moved to the United States. Was there ever a thought in your mind that you might play for England instead of the USA?
No. I think they knew I would stay here, that I wanted to stay here and play for the USA.
Your father is a doctor and you want to also get into medicine. Do you know what field?
I don’t know. There’s a lot to choose from when it comes to medicine. My dad was telling me that he didn’t think he would be a gastroenterologist, so it just depends on what you end up liking when you go to school. That’s probably how I’ll end up choosing.
Is your family athletic at all, do any of them play basketball?
Actually, my family, they didn’t play basketball at all. We didn’t really hear much about basketball until we came to the U.S. I played soccer when I was younger. My dad played soccer when he was in Nigeria. So, basketball, I’m the first person to play it in my family.
You traveled to Nigeria, was it to see family?
Most of the family has moved from there. But, when I went I saw my aunts and uncles. I had my birthday there. I was seven, I still remember it. I don’t know if I’ll go back, but I probably will with my family, because my little brother hasn’t gone. So, we’ll probably all go together.
You’ve also been to France and Spain with USA Basketball. What do your friends think of all your travels?
They just love it. They’re real proud of me. I’m just thankful they’re always there and supporting me. So, it’s great.
Will you be following the Nigerian team in Chile?
My parents will probably go see them and tell me about the team. They’re coming to Chile with my brother.
You also play the trombone and juggle. Are you good at both and how did you get into both?
Well, with the trombone, I decided in middle school that I wanted to be in band. I ended up being pretty good at it. Then, with juggling, I just wanted to know how to juggle. So, I started practicing and just figured it out.
What is it that makes you succeed at everything you do?
I think it’s more my personality. I like getting stuff done, doing things well.
Do you still play the trombone?
No, I’ve stopped. With the IB (International Baccalaureate) program and basketball, traveling a lot, it was just too much.
Did you compete in track and field this year?
No, not senior year, because with McDonald’s and the All-American games and other stuff, I would be missing too many meets. So, I decided to focus on basketball.
You can speak some Spanish. Will you be able to conduct a press conference in Spanish in Chile?
I’m pretty good at Spanish. But, I’d prefer English. If they want me to speak Spanish I can try.
What’s the best thing about playing for USA Basketball?
Winning a gold medal. That’s the best feeling in the world