Listen up and listen closely Blue Devil fans. The player formerly known as Mistie Bass will now go by Mistie Williams, after her August wedding to Kenneth Williams.
Don’t worry if the name change is too tough to remember, though, because women’s basketball head coach Gail Goestenkors is struggling with it too.
“It’s just like one word for me: Mistie Bass,” Goestenkors said. “I don’t think of her as a married woman. I just have to get used to that last name change a little bit because I think I have called her that in practice. I have to catch myself.”
Name change aside, the addition of Williams’ husband to the Blue Devil family poses some tough questions for the team this year. Will the new Mistie Williams care as much about the team now? Will she fit in with her teammates any differently?
Bass—Williams, rather—claims her new status has in fact had a positive effect on her basketball life and interaction with the team.
“I think my communication skills with my teammates are so much better,” she said. “It’s not really different. Once I leave home, I’m just a teammate, and I don’t necessarily bring [my marriage] into the locker room or onto the court.”
The junior does admit, though, that getting hitched did cause a bit of trepidation among her fellow players and coaching staff.
“My biggest worry was that they would think I wasn’t as committed as before,” Williams said. “I think the coaches had a fear of that as well—that I wouldn’t work as hard, that I was just ‘the wife’ and I’m not going to work as hard as before.”
Before her marriage, Williams sat down with Goestenkors and discussed the potential impact that such a drastic change in her personal life could have on the team. Williams reassured her coach that she could draw a line between personal and public life and would not alienate herself from the team.
So far at least, it seems like Williams has made good on her vow, and both coach and players agree that this year’s team is closer than recent Duke squads.
“The team has spent a lot of time at Mistie’s house and vice versa,” Goestenkors said. “They’ve really made the effort. They know that for us to be as successful as they want to be, they have to work together and trust each other.”
Her teammates echo this feeling of good will. “I have no idea why, but chemistry is not an issue,” junior point guard Lindsey Harding said. “Most teams always contain little cliques, but with this team I can always call anyone, and we are good to go.”
Goestenkors was also quick to point out that the adjustment has not been difficult because Williams still lives on campus. In order for the Blue Devils to be successful, they will have to rely on Williams and her strength in the post and on the glass, Goestenkors said.
Last season the center averaged 10 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Goestenkors is expecting Williams to lead a powerful front line that will include freshman Chante Black and a healthy sophomore Allison Bales.
Williams has committed to improving herself this off-season and realizes that with Alana Beard and Iciss Tillis gone, she will have to take on more of a leading role.
She credits her new husband for helping her grow as a person in preparation for the season. She met the 24 year old Air Force traffic controller through a mutual friend while at Duke.
“Just having another person to talk to [and] learn from has helped me so much with my teammates,” Williams said.
The pair held their wedding ceremony in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, and many teammates attended, including Harding, who was in the wedding. In addition, assistant coaches Gale Valley, LaVonda Wagner and Shannon Perry saw the couple wed.
Now that all of the basketball-related questions are answered with a fair amount of conviction, only one thing remains in doubt. Will Goestenkors and the Blue Devil faithful be able to remember that it is now Mistie Williams and no longer Mistie Bass?
Only time will tell.
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