Earnesia Williams: Women's Basketball's top scholar-athlete through grit and determination
Although forward Earnesia Williams does not lead Texas in points, rebounds, assists or steals, she does lead the team in preparation, grit and determination.
Those characteristics are the reason why Williams, a top scholar-athlete, claimed the team’s Most Valuable Player and academic MVP honors last season. They are the reason why the Sapulpa, Okla., native was voted a team co-captain this fall.
The word that UT head coach Gail Goestenkors regularly uses to describe the undersized 6-1 post is “warrior.”
“Day in and day out, Earnie comes to practice and games playing like a warrior,” noted Goestenkors. “She sets the tone for us with her passion and energy. I admire all that Earnie gives us on and off the court. She is all business and approaches her classwork, her training and her game preparation with seriousness and care. It’s unfortunate, however, that the fans and opponents cannot see all those All-America like-skills and explosiveness Earnesia possesses, since she is limited a bit due to her chronic knee issues. I just love her approach and dedication,” Goestenkors finished.
“I do try to be a warrior,” Williams said. “My goal is to work hard every minute and be a leader on and off the court. I do the ‘helper’ plays -- rebounding and playing hard on defense. I try to make the team better any way I can. Off-court, my goal is to take care of my business every day.”
A junior academically, Williams has two years of athletic eligibility left due to an ACL knee injury which sidelined her medically in 2005-06.
“I’m glad I still have two more seasons to play,” she noted. “I look at it as having more time to improve and grow and make a name for my team.”
Earnesia attributes much of her recent mental growth to Goestenkors. “This year I have come to know the game better from a mental standpoint. Coach G has helped me not only learn how to run certain offenses and defenses, but why we do it. She’s instilling in us a tougher mental approach to everything we do,” she noted.
Although Williams’ knee situation has limited her minutes played (22.4 mpg), the full-time starter boasts UT’s highest 3-point shooting percentage (.400) and second highest free throw percentage (.810). She is fifth in steals (29) while contributing 8.3 points and four rebounds per game.
In emerging as UT's most accurate 3-pointe shooter, Williams uses her size to her advantage on the perimeter. “I try bring my post defender outside and put them in an uncomfortable position. My goal is to be as versatile as possible,” said Williams. “My shot has gotten better, I have the green light to shoot, and Coach G has helped me learn to play with more intensity.”
That intensity translates to her off-court world where Williams has a host of academic accolades. A youth and community studies with a keen interest in computer studies, Earnesia intends to have a business in computer technology when her post-Texas basketball career is completed.
"One of the reasons I chose Texas was for its academic reputation, and I’ve never looked back since," said Williams, who also admits to gentle nudging from her mom Kammie Holmes, a former collegiate basketball standout in her own right at NAIA national champion Fort Hays State (Kansas). Holmes always suggested that she keep Texas in mind when she evaluated colleges.
Williams also is a member of the UT Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and does extensive community service, whether it be volunteering with at-risk youth at local elementary schools or assisting with the annual Marathon Kids fitness event hosted by UT Athletics.
As the basketball team’s top student-athlete and dual MVP a year ago, Earnesia continues to add to those honors. Selected to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll twice, she will take a spot on the elite Big 12 All-Academic Team this winter. Singled out as the Longhorn PRIDE Female Student-Athlete of the Month in December, she was named to the 12-member Big 12 Conference Winter “Good Works Team” last week. Each Big 12 school selects a student-athlete for this recognition based upon significant community service and strong academic standing.
And today for the second consecutive year, she will be introduced pregame as the State Farm “Scholar-Athlete of the Game” as part of the Texas-Texas A&M State Farm Lone Star Showdown rivalry series.
Williams’ leadership and willingness to improve are visible to her teammates every day -- and that is where her value is incalculable.
“I was surprised I was voted MVP last year,” Williams admits. “A lot of the time the MVP is the person that scores the most points, but I don’t feel that necessarily makes a person the most valuable. I want to always do things the right way, in basketball and in my academics, and bring this program to championship status,” she finished.
And that succinct statement -- “do things the right way” -- sums up best why Earnesia captures all the honors which have come -- and will come -- her way and how she also represents herself, her UT team and The University of Texas.