By Carl Adamec
STORRS, Conn. — Maybe it’s the track part of the athlete in Gabby Williams. The 5-foot-11 senior guard from Sparks, Nev., is in a hurry.
But when you’re a two-sport standout seven months removed from a five-hour surgery to repair a completely torn anterior cruciate ligament and partially-torn meniscus in your right knee, patience is virtue.
It’s a lesson that Williams’ father, Matt, is trying to teach his teenage daughter.
“She’s doing awesome,” Matt Williams said Friday. “With her it’s trying to slow her down and make sure she doesn’t overdo it. Her body has changed so much coming from a 15-year-old to a 16-year-old. She’s going to be stronger than ever. Her rehab is going really well. The doctors and trainers are very happy.”
Matt Williams was at Gampel Pavilion Friday and took in USA Basketball’s press conference that introduced UConn’s Geno Auriemma as the national team coach through the 2016 Olympics.
Gabby Williams was averaging 30 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, and seven blocked shots her junior season for Reed High when she injured her knee last Jan. 19 just 30 seconds into a game against rival Reno High. She had surgery Feb. 11.
In March she made an unofficial visit to UConn and took in the Huskies’ NCAA tournament second-round win over Vanderbilt on the 25th. She made her oral commitment four days later.
She is likely still at least a month away from being cleared to play.
“It’s been tougher mentally than physically for her,” Matt Williams said. “She’s not used to being down. Mentally, for her, she’s competing in a different way. I don’t think she is questioning whether she is going to come back or not. She just misses the energy, the teams, the actual competing seeing if she can push herself.”
But while she may be getting close to being cleared by her doctors and trying to help Reed capture a second state championship in three years, she needs to reach another plateau to receive her father’s approval.
“Gabby has to come back stronger than before,” Matt Williams said. “Right now, she’s almost there. She wants to play. But I want to make sure she’s ready. She has UConn ahead of her. That’s her future right now.
“I can’t stop her from playing but I want to make sure she at the level she needs to be. So I’ve kind of challenged her and told her, ‘When you can dunk the basketball consistently, you can play.’ “
Remember, Gabby Williams is more than a basketball player.
As a high school sophomore, she finished fifth in the high jump at the 2012 United States Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. Inspired by the rhythmic clapping of the crowd of 20,791 at Hayward Field, she cleared 6’2.25″ — the sixth-best ever for a high school athlete and tying Amy Acuff’s 21-year-old top mark for a sophomore.
When she made her commitment in March, Gabby Williams said she was considering doing both sports in college. Six months later, Matt Williams isn’t so sure.
“Right now, it’s basketball,” he said. “I kind of push track on her because, I mean, how many kids jump 6-2-and-a-quarter? She kind of told me she wasn’t going to do track. I’m going to leave that alone. Right now it’s about basketball for her.”
But her best chance to join Auriemma in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 would be as a member of USA track team, especially after coming close at age 15.
“If other people let her know that …,” Matt Williams said with a smile. “But I’m dad right now and the harder I push the harder she’s going to push back. She’s a 16-year-old. She’s going to change her mind and go through different emotions. She’s so focused at being the best that she can be. It will change, I hope. Right now, she’s just honored to be coming to Connecticut and to be coached by Coach Auriemma.”
Auriemma and UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph were scheduled to be in Nevada today to do an in-home recruiting visit with Williams.