Earnesia Williams: One more shot
June 17, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas -- The jersey is still sitting in a frame somewhere. Earnesia Williams just isn't sure exactly where. She doesn't really care, either.
"I can't take it home yet," Williams says with a shrug.
It's true -- Williams was celebrated during the senior ceremony before the Texas Women's Basketball team's final home game of the season against Oklahoma. She even received a framed jersey, despite still having an extra year of eligibility.
When the Longhorns' season concluded after their second-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament under coach Gail Goestenkors, Williams decided she wasn't ready to leave the Forty Acres.
"I didn't want to not go through the senior ceremony. I was a senior. But I love basketball, and I love being at UT," said Williams, who graduated in May from the College of Education. "After I spent some time thinking about it, this is just where I want to be."
In Williams, the Longhorns retain their tried-and-true post presence. She was second on the team in rebounding last year, while also averaging 6.6 points a game. Williams scored a season-high 17 points to lead UT in the NCAA first-round game against Mississippi State.
That put the closing touches on an emotional postseason for Williams. She opened it with the first double-double of her career with 15 points and 11 rebounds to help the Longhorns come from behind and beat Missouri in the opening round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament.
Even more remarkable, that effort came exactly one day after Williams survived a scary, one-car crash. She was driving to her kinesiology internship off R.R. 2222, and Williams' car hydroplaned in the early-morning rain and rolled over and into the rock wall edging the road.
Williams escaped with her life, and only a few scratches on her arm. Now, she's using her status with the Longhorns to speak out about seat belt safety. Williams is a spokesperson for TxDot's "Click it or Ticket" campaign.
"I'm glad I have this opportunity. It's a big thing," Williams said. "You think you're invincible, but you're not. It's not necessarily your driving -- it's how other people drive. It's drunk driving, the street being wet, people being in a hurry because they're late to work."
After the accident, Williams said she played with a renewed sense of purpose -- and joy -- against Missouri. And, coincidence or not, she turned in one of the best games of her career.
Williams wants to make her final season a replica of that, and she's encouraged by the combination of youth and leadership among the Longhorns. Last season, Williams says freshmen like Ashley Gayle and Ashleigh Fontenette impressed her with their fearlessness on the court, and in the locker room.
Even in dour moments, Gayle and Fontenette were often the ones providing the verbal leadership. Williams has always been one to do, not say, but she's looking for a voice now.
"Coach G says everyone will respond if they hear from me," Williams said.
And Williams wants nothing more than to finally give people a reason to notice the Longhorns.
"I just feel like since I've been here, we've gotten recognition, but we haven't done anything spectacular," Williams said. "We're good, but we haven't been consistently good. I think we can do that, and I want to do that before I leave.
"As a team, we need to put Texas back up there."