COLUMBUS, Ohio - Gabby Williams isn’t at a loss for words often, except maybe when the UConn women’s basketball team’s senior forward is asked about her left hip issues.
But her answer to a question of whether she could get the three rebounds she needs for 1,000 in her Huskies’ career was short and sweet. UConn takes on archrival Notre Dame Friday night in a NCAA Final Four semifinal at Nationwide Arena.
“I’ll try,” Williams said with a smile.
To the 5-foot-11 Williams, rebounding is all about effort and there’s little short or sweet about it. The only short part would be her height. If she gets the three rebounds, she’d become the seventh UConn player with 1,000 but the first to be listed shorter than 6-feet tall.
Tina Charles, who visited the Huskies’ locker room following their 94-65 rout of South Carolina in the Albany Regional final Monday, is UConn’s all-time leader with 1,367 rebounds.
“It just shows her toughness, especially because she is so much shorter,” UConn forward Napheesa Collier said. “I know she can jump really high, but she is so tough she will go get it, she will box you out to get it. She is obviously athletic, but she is really skilled, as well.”
In 35 games this season - she missed one with the left hip injury, Williams is averaging 11.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.5 steals. She was selected to the five-player Wooden Award All-America team Wednesday after earlier being named All-America second team by the Associated Press and USBWA. She is a finalist for the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy as Player of the Year.
Williams was a guard at Reed High before moving to the frontcourt with the Huskies.
“Of course, I was a rebounder in high school,” Williams said. “I’ve always taken pride in rebounding. Guards can rebound, too. Anyone can rebound. It doesn’t take a talent. You just go and get the ball. It’s effort. It’s working hard at it. That’s why anyone can be a good rebounder. You have to be in the right place at the right time and you need to be aggressive.”
She may have been a rebounding guard in high school, but Williams wasn’t going against 6-3, 6-4, or 6-5 post players very often like she sees at UConn.
She could see Notre Dame’s 6-2 Kathryn Westbeld or 6-4 Jessica Shepard Friday night.
“When I came here freshman year I came in with the mindset that I could play all positions, and I think I told the coaches they could put me wherever they needed me pretty much,” Williams said. “It was more of me wanting to be a versatile player and wanting to get playing time. I wanted to find the best way that I could mold myself into the team. I embraced it because it was an opportunity for me to actually contribute.
“It wasn’t that big of a transition at all. The coaches put me there, because I was able to do everything I was good at. I was able to get those rebounds. I was able to set those screens.”