Gabby Williams, one of the three guards who have offered UConn a verbal commitment to the Class of 2014, took some time during lunch today at Reed High in Sparks, Nevada to catch me up on how she is feeling.
Williams, 5-feet-11, was averaging 28 points, 11 rebounds and six assists when she tore the ACL in her right knee against Reno High on Jan. 19.
“I went to go up for a layup. The girl in front of me tried to take a charge,” Williams said. “I tried to jump around her to avoid [a collision]. But when I left my feet, another girl behind me had her hand on me as I went up and it resulted in me taking a weird step. It was all just bad timing. Wrong time and wrong place and there was nothing I could do about it.
“At first, I was totally in denial, completely in denial. On the day I was injured, my [physical] therapist was at the game and he immediately came over to check on me. He was doing some tests on my knee and I could tell it felt super loose. I knew it didn’t look right. But I couldn’t accept it. I remember asking them ‘You can just wrap it [the knee] up, right?”
“After the MRI results came back, it was actually more difficult on my parents. They were both very upset about it. I was doing my best to stay strong about.”
Gabby says sustaining the injury forced her to sit and think about what she wants to accomplish athletically in her life. You’ll recall she was also one of the nation’s top high jumpers and had her eye – now that she is 16 – on trying to qualify for the United States Junior Track and Field Championships. But not only was she naturally forced to miss the remainder of the basketball season, but she also couldn’t partake in track this spring at Reed.
“I was excited to finally be able to try out [for the World Junior Championship track and field team] and then I’d pick up basketball again come July and August,” Williams said. “But as of right now, I’d say I’m still trying to decide what my focus is going to be [as a senior in high school].
“As long as my knee is fine, I would still be able to participate in both sports. But I did notice while I was out how much more I seemed to miss basketball than track. It might have been kind of a wakeup call. I think I would have continued to participate in track simply because of all the adrenaline that remains in me [after basketball]. But I remember thinking so much about basketball [after the injury] that I began to think that maybe I wasn’t into track as much anymore as basketball.”
Williams will spend most of her summer continuing her recovery. She says she is allowed to run on an underwater treadmill, but won’t be cleared to run on land for a little while longer.
“Just so that my graft can mature [in the knee],” Willams said. “But it’s [the rehab] been easy. It’s been painless. No problems at all. It’s been a lot of fun just to be able to move again.”
After school ends on June 5, she said she’ll also be helping out at basketball camps while continuing to coach some younger girls she’s been helping with.
“I’ll be able to run by then and do some drills, if not actually play in games,” Williams said.
Most of all she is says she is just happy to be a Husky. The decision to commit after visits to Stanford, Arizona and Arizona State took a lot of pressure out of her life.
“It’s so nice because all I have to do now if continue to focus on my rehab here,” Williams said. “I have to worry about what school I’ll be going. A lot of the stress and pressure is off my shoulders. Some of the schools that were recruiting do occasionally check in, but I think they get the point. They’ve been backing off a lot. My phone isn’t blowing up as much and that is a super-nice feeling.”
Although she wasn’t able to be in New Orleans for the Final Four in April, watching UConn win its eighth national title filled her with enthusiasm.
“It made me just want to rip it [the brace] off and start playing again,” Williams said. “It was fun to actually have a team to root for in the tournament because usually I will just watch to see good basketball.”
And while she met future teammate Courtney Ekmark recently at an tournament in Los Angeles, she has yet to meet the third member of the trio, Sadie Edwards.
“But we do text each other on occasion,” she laughed.