Elizabeth Williams has been a household name for Duke women’s basketball since the first time she stepped onto Coach K Court in 2011.
If it seems as though she has been playing for head coach Joanne P. McCallie for much longer than three seasons, it is likely due to all of the accolades she has garnered over that time period—three-time All America honors, three-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year, three-time First Team All-ACC, three-time gold medalist with Team USA and the 2011-2012 National Freshman of the Year.
The only thing missing from her long list of accomplishments is a trip to the NCAA Final Four.
In Williams’ rookie postseason, the Blue Devils fell to Stanford in the Elite Eight. Despite nursing a stress fracture, Williams played and held her own. In her sophomore season, Duke again made an appearance in the Elite Eight, but lost to now-ACC rival Notre Dame. Last year, Williams and the second-seeded Blue Devils made an unexpected second-round exit with a loss at home to DePaul.
Heading into her final season in Durham, Williams will be the veteran leader on a team with six Blue Devils that have yet to suit up in a regular season game for Duke. A fresh start with the talented newcomers could be just the spark the Blue Devils need—but Williams knows it won’t come easily.
“It’s [my] senior year, obviously you want to do really well,” Williams said. “We’ve come up short of our expectations [in past postseasons]. This year with a completely new team, we obviously have high expectations for ourselves, but I think with this new team, it’s a process and it’s going to take some time for us to learn each other and learn what we’re capable of doing.”
Williams is arguably in the best shape of her four-year career coming into this season. For the first time since arriving at Duke, she had a healthy summer to concentrate on extra conditioning, increasing her shooting range and improving her free-throw shooting. She also was awarded the Iron Blue Devil Belt by the team’s strength and conditioning coach—William Stephens—for her hard work in summer and preseason conditioning. She out-lifted the rest of the team by bench-pressing a whopping 190 pounds.
“Elizabeth is in incredible physical shape. She is truly one of the best players in the country this year, without question,” McCallie said. “But she’s also answered the bell—190 on the bench press—she is ready to go and ready to play a lot of minutes. She’s a special player.”
Williams will likely bring “special” to a whole new level with the culmination of her senior season, as she is in pursuit of multiple records. Known for her incredible shot-blocking ability, swatting 331 shots in her career thus far, she is only 25 blocks away from moving into 25th on the NCAA career blocks list. With 103 more blocks, she could move into a tie for first on the Blue Devil and ACC career blocks lists with Alison Bales, who graduated from Duke in 2007.
Williams currently sits high in the record books at Duke and in the ACC. As a Blue Devil, she is currently ranked 10th in points with 1,491, ninth in rebounds with 790, and eighth in field goals made with 603. In the ACC, she ranks third in career blocks. She also holds the ACC freshman record for most blocks in a season and the conference record for most blocks in a single game—posting 12 at Wake Forest Jan. 6, 2012 to go with 18 points and 16 rebounds for her first triple double.
“It’s always exciting to have the opportunity to break records,” Williams said. “There have been some great players who came through here and to be able to even be close to that is very cool. I’m just going to do whatever it is my team needs me to do, whether it’s blocking shots like it has been over the past couple of years or scoring. Hopefully as the season progresses, I’ll be able to [break the ACC career blocks record], but it won’t be my main focus.”
On top of all of her basketball excellence, Williams is majoring in psychology and on the pre-medicine track. She had a 4.19 grade average in high school and made the Dean’s List at Duke for the Spring semester of her freshman year. She is also a two-time ACC Honor Roll selection.
Williams has plenty of options after college, but they may have to wait until her playing days are over. She is expected to be a top draft pick in the upcoming 2015 WNBA Draft.
“My plan right now is to play in the WNBA and overseas for a couple of years and then go to medical school after that,” she said.
Williams will put all of these aspirations aside for now. The goal at the forefront of her mind is completing her collegiate career with a trip to the Final Four, and ultimately an NCAA championship.
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