Central Arkansas Christian’s Christyn Williams, the No. 1 overall player in the Class of 2018, signed last Friday to play her college basketball at the University of Connecticut.
Williams unveiled her choice before a packed house during chapel at Mustang Mountain when her fellow Lady Mustang seniors Alexa Mashburn, Kelson Miller and Jenna Davis, all in UConn shirts, walked onto Coach Q Court with a husky — the team’s mascot — named Akino, owned by Mustang player Nate Alberson.
She chose UConn over South Carolina, the defending national champion.
UConn is the premier program in the country, having won a record 11 national championships, including four consecutive from 2013-16 during a 151-5 run.
Williams, who visited UConn as a freshman in January 2015, took her official visit last month. She told ESPN in an interview shown at the signing that the home feeling she felt in 2015 was still there on her second visit.
“I pretty much knew then,” she told this paper following her signing.
She kept the secret from all except her family, best friends and ESPN, she said.
Williams also took official visits this fall to UCLA, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. She is bidding to become the state’s first three-time Gatorade Arkansas Girls Basketball Player of the Year after earning bronze, gold and silver medals for Team USA in international play the last two summers.
In her Mustang Mountain debut as a freshman, she scored 34 points and grabbed 16 rebounds against Pulaski Academy. In 102 high school games, Williams, a 5-11 ambidextrous guard, has averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds, including a 29.3 scoring average as a sophomore. She has notched 47 double-doubles, scored 20 or more points in 83 games, 30 or more 33 times — including 20 in 2016 — and 40 or more six times. Her career high is 47 against Heber Springs, when she hit the game-winning 3-pointer on Coach Q Court.
Williams told ESPN that UConn was the perfect place for her to accomplish her goals.
“I want to be legendary,” she said. “Winning national championships and winning games are great, but to become a better woman and a better player at the same time is phenomenal.”
She said she wanted her name to be listed with other UConn and WNBA greats such as Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore.
The video showed her calling UConn coach Geno Auriemma and telling him, “I’ve got some bad news… . You’re stuck with me for the next four years.”
Auriemma told ESPN that Williams’ signing did several things.
“No. 1, it makes you feel like we’re on the right track still,” he said. “Second, we’re involved with the right kind of kids. Third, we just got the player who’s better than anybody else out of high school, and it’s our job in four years to make sure she’s the best player coming out of college.”
In addressing the crowd prior to the signing, CAC coach Steve Quattlebaum said he couldn’t recognize everyone who had helped Williams along her path, but he praised her parents, Sherman and Cheryl Williams.
“They have literally followed her around the world to watch her play basketball,” Quattlebaum said, turning to them. “Thank you for sharing your daughter with us.”
He added: “But Christyn’s done this. We’re proud of her. She’s worked her whole life to be the best player in the country and to be able to sign with any school in the country.”
Williams told the crowd she wasn’t going to talk much because she was afraid she would cry.
“Thank you for coming out,” she said. “Thanks to everybody who’s contributed to my success.”
Quattlebaum said afterward South Carolina had made a big recruiting push late.
“But it’s hard to turn down UConn,” he said. “I don’t think you can turn it down if you get that opportunity.”
Williams’ father, Sherman, said he was glad the recruitment was over.
“It’s been a journey,” he said. “It’s another door opening for her.”
Miller, Mashburn and Davis seemed pleased that they didn’t have to lead a rooster onto the floor. South Carolina’s mascot is the Gamecock.
With Williams’ recruitment now over, she can focus on leading the Lady Mustangs to their first state championship since 2007.
“Exactly,” she said, and grinned.