Off Court with Mercedes Williams
Poised for Big 12 play. That's the theme for Texas senior Mercedes Williams.
After boasting career bests in points (15) and rebounds (9) in the Longhorns' season-opening win against No. 21 Penn State during the State Farm Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic in mid-November, Williams has played a limited role for UT, averaging just three and one-half minutes a game through the following six. But, her minutes increased over the last three games and so has her productivity. She scored 15 points and played a total of 28 minutes against Texas-Arlington and Sam Houston State.
"There's a good chance that Mercedes will play a different kind of role then what she played earlier in the season," remarked associate head coach Karen Aston. "Mercedes has a good chance to see her minutes increase because she has an understanding of Big 12 play and she knows the personnel and knows what it takes to play in our league."
Williams has played in 92 career games to date - including all 10 this season and a streak of 26 straight dating back to last year - and has seen her time on the court steadily improve in each of her three seasons at Texas. A slender six-foot, two-inch forward, Williams is a defensive specialist who combines her experience on the court with a consistent work ethic.
"Mercedes leads by example and works extremely hard, something that I think all coaches would appreciate and value," Aston continued. "She has paid attention in our system and has the ability to demonstrate to the young players what needs to be done."
That ability to allow others to benefit from your experience is something Mercedes has never overlooked.
"I try to play as hard as possible in practice all the time," said Williams. "Hopefully that will make everyone better and step their games up."
Yet, in turn, Mercedes selfless attitude and solid work ethic have also allowed for vast improvement to her own game. After struggling to maintain consistency in her first two seasons, Williams produced her best shooting year to date, connecting on 58 percent of her field goals from the floor overall and an impressive 62 percent of her field goals in Big 12 play - tops among all Texas players - while also shooting a .733 mark from the free-throw line during her junior season.
This year, Williams' shooting accuracy continues as she is hitting at a 67 percent clip from the floor. Williams has seemingly picked up right where she left off as a junior. She has hit 14-of-21 field goal attempts (.667) and has boasted a career-high nine rebounds twice (vs. Penn State and vs. Texas-Arlington) through the first 10 games of the season. In what was her most productive game in her career as a Longhorn, Williams shot 7-for-8 en route to her 15-point performance and finished just one rebound shy of her first career double-double.
Most recently, Williams equaled her high in rebounds, adding her second near double-double performance of the season as she grabbed nine rebounds and scored seven points in 15 minutes in the Longhorns' 69-24 win against Texas-Arlington. Williams also emerged as a solid defensive presence in the low post during her junior season, stepping into the void left with Annissa Hastings' season ending injury. Always ready to come off the bench and help jump-start the team, Williams possesses quickness and provides Texas' coaching staff and the Longhorns with tremendous versatility on defense.
"One of Mercedes' best qualities is that she can defend multiple positions," says Aston. "There are times that we have to put her on a guard, and that goes to show that she is obviously one of the best defenders on our team. It is always good to be able to guard different positions and she does it extremely well."
And, as she continues to impress with strong performances on the court, Williams also impresses off, where she is a proud mother of four-year-old rising basketball and football player, Markeis. With the help of her own mother, Janice, Mercedes has learned a great deal about responsibility as she continues to successfully manage the challenges of motherhood, college basketball and the demands of being a serious student.
So, as the Longhorns open their conference schedule against Kansas at the Frank Erwin Center, don't be surprised to see more of Mercedes. The Texas coaches - and opponent coaches - won't be surprised to see #53 take to the court.