Just over a month into her rookie season with the Phoenix Mercury, former USF guard Courtney Williams continues to adapt to life in the WNBA.
Despite her team facing a 4-8 start to the season, Williams said she is learning a lot from her coaches and veteran teammates on playing up to the WNBA standards. But she is determined to use their wisdom as a blueprint throughout her professional basketball career.
“When I came in, I knew that playing basketball professionally would be different than playing in college,” Williams said. “ I think that being willing to learn from your coaches and teammates who have more experience than you is what it means to be a professional athlete, and I know that I am capable of doing that.”
So far, Williams has made only five appearances this season for the Mercury.
However, Williams showed she could compete during the Mercury’s two preseason games, where the rookie guard averaged 13 points, 5.5 rebounds and shot 54.5 percent from the field.
Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello said she understands that for some young athletes, going from college sports to the big leagues can be a difficult transition.
“It is always difficult for any rookie player to come out of college and play at the national level, depending on what team they come into, and (Williams) obviously came into a veteran team with players that are older and more experienced than her,” Brondello said.
But Brondello sees promise in Williams’ athletic ability.
“We know that she can score, which she does great in that area after playing in college,” Brondello said. “She doesn’t have any playing opportunities at the moment because of how rough the season has been for the team, but she does show a great attitude in her role for the team.
“As long as she keeps honing her offense and defense skills, Courtney will have more opportunities to show her potential.”
In Williams’ senior year at USF, she ranked second in the nation among D-I teams with 308 field goals made. Williams wrapped up her career setting a USF record for points scored in a season with 763.
It didn’t take long for Brondello to learn about Williams’ success in women’s basketball. In April, Williams became the eighth overall pick in this year’s WNBA Draft, fulfilling her dream of competing at the national level.
Though being far away from home has been something of a challenge for Williams, she said she has found comfort living in the Valley of the Sun.
“As a professional athlete, living in a whole new environment is just something to get used to,” Williams said. “So every day, I talk to my friends and family either on the phone or social media, letting them know how I’m doing. And every day, I tell myself that being a WNBA player is what I want to be and I hope to achieve a lot of success in the future as one.”
Despite the tough start, nine-year veteran Noelle Quinn embraces the opportunity of being one of the many players on the team on whom Williams relies for on-the-court advice.
“New players (are) always a good thing to have, especially when you have some that are young and new to the sport, like Courtney,” Quinn said. “And what I like about seeing new blood is that they help to build a stronger team, while aspiring themselves to be future champions.”
Building consistency over the current WNBA season has been the objective for Williams. After averaging 1.8 rebounds and 0.5 assists in her four appearances, Quinn said her teammate still has a lot to prove.
“Whenever she comes in for practice, I have always advised her to ‘be on your P’s and Q’s and follow directions for every game plan,’” Quinn said. “Every day, she watches players like Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner play, taking mental note on where their strengths are in playing offense and defense.
“Based on what I have seen in Courtney so far, she learns on the fly and is a team player, (and) I think those are the things that define her both personally and professionally.”
Quinn said what makes Williams different from the other players on the team is athleticism, which she believed to be Williams’ greatest asset on the court.
“Every day is a learning experience for her,” Quinn said. “She is quick, she knows what it means to be a professional player, and she works hard at putting herself in position to play offense and defense. She also loves to be in control of dribbling the ball and passing it to her teammates for them to make the basket. And I believe those are skills that Courtney will hone very well as a professional athlete.”