Although the process got off to a slow start at first, a phenomenal performance in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix turned things around. After Williams posted games of 27, 32 and 27 points against top-tier competition, teams could no longer ignore her as she came across the radar of almost every program in the country.
“At first I wasn’t being recruited by very many schools and I really didn’t think I was going to be,” Williams said. “After Arizona though, my landscape of colleges has been way broader.”
Immediately a handful of top 15 teams came calling. Programs such as Duke (No. 4), Kentucky (No. 5), Stanford (No. 6), Cal (No. 7), Maryland (No. 10), UCLA (No. 14) and Louisville (No. 15) have shown interest and made a trip to local gyms to catch Williams in action. And when Reed hosts cross-town rival Spanish Springs Friday night, coaches representing the University of Connecticut, currently ranked No. 3 in the nation, will be in attendance.
In the face of all the interest, Reed coach Sara Ramirez said Williams has not allowed any of it to change who she is.
“Her head is still on. She has no ego, no blown-up head,” Ramirez said. “I think that is the most amazing thing because a lot of kids with all of that going on would let it faze them and she doesn’t. There’s no difference with her. It doesn’t disrupt her or our team at all. I think that speaks loudly to Gabby’s character because she is still here for the team.”
While Williams, who ESPN has ranked No. 8 for the class of 2014, has remained a constant for her squad, she said she is well aware of those who have been filling the stands at the Raiders’ games of late.
“It is a little bit of pressure, but I just try to think that they’re not there,” Williams said of playing in front of the high-caliber of attention. “It is in the back of my mind. I know that they’re there to watch me, but I just imagine that they’re not. I know I just have to play my game. What kind of gets to my mind though is I think I have to do something super amazing for them to want me. At the end of the day though, I just need to play my game.”
Playing her game is what Williams has done her whole life. While most senior recruits signed their letters of intent back in November, Williams, a junior is taking a different route along the recruiting path, not rushing to a conclusion. When she speaks with coaches, Williams is the one asking questions, making sure she hears what she wants to as she thoroughly vets her options for both a basketball and a track program that can foster her high dreams.
“I’m definitely looking at the playing style of the schools. I’m looking for a team that is going to play fast-paced, has high-energy and presses,” Williams said. “I just want that fast-paced game and a motivated coach. I’m not looking for like the calm, sit-down coach. If I mess up and you need to get into me, get into me.
“Track wise, I’m looking at the resumes of the coaches. I want to make sure the coach has trained with athletes who have had the ability to go to the Olympics before. That way I’m comfortable with the experience. I’m hoping that wherever I go, they’ll let me red-shirt my sophomore year from basketball so I can focus on the Olympics. So far, every school has been on board with that which is good, but it’s kind of made this decision a little bit more difficult. It hasn’t narrowed anything down.”
Even if the list has yet to be thinned for Williams, she is making certain she soaks in the whole experience.
“The most exciting part of this whole process is how I looked up to all the players before me like the Maya Moores and Candace Parkers, as well as the coaches, and it’s crazy because now the coaches are talking to me,” Williams said. “Now I’m in the same shoes as the players that I have looked up to. It’s pretty overwhelming and kind of surreal. I never expected this, but here I am.”
And as long as she keeps playing her game, she will be here for a long time to come.