CAC senior earns medals during summer tours

Donna Lampkin Stephens/Contributing Writer Published August 13, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Courtesy of FIBA Basketball

Christyn Williams, a senior at Central Arkansas Christian, drives to the basket during the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup in Chengdu, China, this summer while playing for Team USA.

North Little Rock — Central Arkansas Christian’s Christyn Williams added gold and silver this summer to the bronze medal in her international trophy case.

Williams, a senior at Mustang Mountain, earned gold in June in the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Women’s 3x3 U18 World Cup in Chengdu, China, and silver recently in the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women in Udine, Italy, when the Americans fell to Russia, 86-82.

She won bronze last summer with Team USA’s U17 World Cup team in Zaragoza, Spain.

Not surprisingly, though, she was disappointed not to have three golds.

“We should have won that game,” she wrote of the gold-medal game in Italy in a blog for USA Today High School Sports. “It’s for the best, though. A lot of us are going to take this loss, and it’s going to help us in the long run.

“I got bronze last year. Getting silver is not gold, but it’s better than bronze.”

Williams, a three-time all-state player and only the third two-time Gatorade Player of the Year for Arkansas, is ranked as the No. 1 overall player in espnW’s Class of 2018. She was the youngest on the U19 squad, having turned 17 on May 20, a day before the roster was announced, and the only high school player on the 12-woman roster.

On the day the roster was announced, she tweeted: “The best birthday present ever … wow.”

CAC coach Steve Quattlebaum said then: “She gets to travel the world a little more, play in more games, play great competition. That will just make her better, which makes us better.”

After the 6-1 run through the U19 tournament, Team USA is 79-13 all-time in 11 U19 World Cups with seven gold medals, one silver and one bronze. The Americans had won six consecutive golds.

“Russia is really good,” Suzie McConnell-Serio, USA and University of Pittsburgh head coach, told USA Basketball. “They are very talented. They have two great players that made play after play. We tried a number of different things. We played hard. I give our players credit — they played their hearts out. I’m proud of their effort. They never quit.

“We gave ourselves a chance down the stretch, and we just couldn’t convert. It’s disappointing. We came here to win the gold.”

Williams’ disappointment was obvious on her blog.

“I’ve played a lot of basketball this summer, and I’m a little exhausted both mentally and physically,” she wrote while still in Italy. “School starts Aug. 9, but I’m planning to take some time off when I get home before I start training again for the high school season.”

Expect her to use that disappointment to fuel her future motivation.

Williams was not satisfied with the bronze last summer after a 6-1 U17 record. In an interview with USA Basketball following the U19 roster announcement, she said this team represented a second chance for her.

“That is great, because bronze hurt my heart,” she said.

Williams reported blurry vision from an eye infection during training camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I’ve been a little off with my shot and struggling a little bit, so that’s been a humbling experience,” she wrote from Italy. “There’s an adjustment period, figuring out what my role is, but I have no doubt that will happen.”

In exhibition play prior to the start of the U19 tournament, Team USA beat Spain, 84-72; Italy, 62-36; and Latvia, 64-56.

In pool play, Team USA beat Mali, 95-58; China, 91-51; and Italy, 66-49. Against Mali, Williams scored three points in 10 minutes; against China, she had three points, three rebounds, two assists and one turnover in 15 minutes. Against Italy, Williams had two points and one rebound in three minutes of play.

In medal play, the Americans beat Puerto Rico, 104-46; France in the quarterfinals, 78-51; and Japan in the

semifinals, 73-66.

Williams had her best game of the tournament against Puerto Rico with 11 points, five rebounds, two steals and one block in 15 minutes.

On her blog for USA Today, she wrote: “I thought I’ve played well the times I’m in the game. I’m sort of still trying to learn my role. I’ve been being a good teammate and contributing in different ways, but it’s definitely an adjustment from what I’m used to. I’m starting to get used to it, but it’s been difficult.”

Against France, she was scoreless with one rebound in four minutes of play. She did not play against Japan.

Against Russia, Williams played three minutes.

“It means a lot that my parents made the trip from Arkansas,” she wrote on her blog. “My parents are my biggest supporters. For them to be here makes me feel good. A lot of people don’t have that opportunity or their parents and family to be here and watch them win a gold medal.”

In 3x3 play in China, Williams scored 22 points over seven games as the Americans knocked off Hungary, Japan, Switzerland and Australia in group play; France, the two-time defending champion, 18-14, in the quarterfinals; Russia, 17-10, in the semifinals; and the Czech Republic, 21-14, for gold.

“We did it!! Blessings,” Williams tweeted.

The win marked the third gold in six competitions for Team USA and its first since 2013. The Americans had won gold in 2012 and ’13, silver in ’15 and ’16, and bronze in ’11. Team USA is 42-7 overall in the event.

In U17 play last summer, Williams averaged 11.9 points (second on the team), four rebounds and 1.3 assists.

Williams’ U19 teammates represented Connecticut, Princeton, Harvard, South Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Vanderbilt and Arizona State.

According to her blog, Williams is still considering offers from Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Texas and UCLA.

“Playing against college players all week long helps me a lot,” she wrote on the blog. “I’m getting a glimpse of what I’m going to have to go up against in the near future. I’m getting a preview, so that’s pretty cool. … It definitely helps me as an individual player, offensively and defensively.

“I’ve played a lot against girls older than me, but this was definitely a different experience that not a lot of players get to have.”

She said she would take her official visits this fall.

“I haven’t really been thinking much about schools since Team USA took up most of my summer,” she wrote. “I’m trying to look at the players at these schools as people and friends, and that has been a mutual thing.”

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