Canes Focus: Jassany Williams
By David Villavicencio
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – TheCanes just beat No. 4 Duke, 69-65, to secure their first win over the ACC powerin program history.
Seniors Morgan Stroman, Stefanie Yderstromand Pepper Wilson guided their team to a marquee win in their final home gameat the BankUnited Center. Fans stormed the court to celebrate the victory withthe team, head coach Katie Meier and her staff.
Amid the celebration stood a6-foot-2 young woman in a dress. Fans may not have recognized her in themoment, but they will next season, when Jassany Williams makes her Hurricanesdebut.
Williams has had an interestingfirst year in Coral Gables. A transfer from Auburn University, she was forcedto sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules.
While she knew she could not playin games this year, Williams planned to make the most of her time by improvingher game and helping her teammates improve in practice. But her plan was derailedwhen she tore her Achilles’ tendon shortly after arriving at Miami in thesummer.
“When I got hurt, I felt likesomebody had tripped me on the court,” Williams said. “I was not sure of whatwas going on. I just I knew I fell and I didn’t experience any initial pain butI couldn’t get up really. People get hurt all the time in the game ofbasketball. I never had a major injury that kept me away from basketball, noteven for a day, so I am just thinking I got a little bump and I’ll be ready togo.”
But the staff knew this was muchmore than the typical bumps and bruises that athletes often endure in apractice. Williams was not in Miami when Stroman tore her Achilles’ tendon lastseason but everyone else in the gym that day knew exactly what the newestHurricane was about to experience.
“When they finally told me, it wasdevastating blow,” Williams said. “Everyone around me knew the situation andknew that feeling and what was going on because of Stroman’s situation. For me,I was completely oblivious. I was thinking ‘give me some Tylenol and I’ll beback tomorrow.’ It was definitely ashocker and I just had to take it all in and just know that everything wasgoing to be okay.”
So while the Hurricanes wereworking tirelessly to prepare for the Duke game, all Williams could do was sitand watch. A fierce competitor, Williams has struggled with being confined toher rehab. There is nothing she wants to do more than be on the court with herteammates.
“The most challenging thing for meis patience,” Williams said. “Theyalways preach patience and taking it one step at a time and how that is veryimportant. It is the biggest thing I amtrying to focus on, learning to be patient. It is coming around but I still have many lessons to learn.”
Williams has worked hard withtrainer Alana Eichman and strength coach Alex Parr to ensure that she will beready to contribute next season like Stroman did this year.
“They all have been in thispredicament before with Stroman’s injury so I feel like they are very capableof helping me get back to where I was, especially seeing how productive Stromanis now.”
Williams has noticed a significantincrease in her overall strength and she credits Parr for helping her attainthat gain.
“I can tell he is definitelygetting me stronger,” Williams said. “I can tell because when I first got here,I could not even do one pushup and now I am doing multiple pull-ups and liftsso I can definitely see the results.”
Her work with Eichman has beenequally as important.
“As far as me being stronger withmy legs and everything, Alana has been helping me get better at stretching andI just feel so much better all-around,” Williams said. “I feel like I am going to be so ready toplay when I get the chance to get back on the court.”
Williams has also gotten help ondealing with the injury from Stroman. The two live together and have beenbrought closer by their common injury.
“Stro provides me with tons ofsupport,” Williams said. “This whole experience has been new to me and, ofcourse, she has been through it before so she has been very helpful. She has told me what to expect next and hasbeen someone I can just talk to. Noteveryone understands the situation you are in. Granted, a lot of people havebeen hurt before, but to have the same exact injury in the same way, she hasbeen able to walk me through things and has been there as a support systemthrough this journey.”
Despite the difficult rehab,Williams sees positives from the situation she is in. The redshirt junior feelsshe has grown immensely since arriving at Miami.
“I look at it now as a blessing indisguise because there were a lot of aspects of my game that I needed to workon that were not necessarily physical aspects,” Williams said. “Coach [Meier] spokea lot to me about being poised on the court and taking my time and doing what Iknow how to do. I used to always be very jittery or antsy type of person, butthis injury has helped me realize that I need to take everything as it comes tome. I think it is going to translate tocourt because I am more patient and more calm and collected. Overall, I think that has been the biggestthing that has come out of this injury.”
The Davie, Fla., native nearlychose Miami as her college choice when she was coming out of Nova High School.Williams struggled with the decision for a long time
“It was tough because I lovedCoach Meier and I loved both schools,” Williams said. “The deciding factor forme came when Coach Meier told me that she was not sure if her contract would berenewed and that was a tough pill to swallow.”
So Williams went to Auburn, whereshe played in 62 games over two seasons. But her situation changed and shedecided to transfer. Williams remembered how fond she was of Meier and theHurricanes were coming off a 26-6 season, so Miami became an intriguing option.
“It definitely made it easier to leave for the simple fact that I knew someone else really wanted me,”Williams said. “That is always the biggest case when transferring. Where do you want to go? Do you have options?Knowing that Katie was here waiting with open arms definitely made thesituation so much better. It was definitely along process. I had to do a lot of soul searching. I talked about it with my family and we realized it was the best situation for me.”
Once Williamsreturns to action, she anticipates being an impact player for the Canes. Aversatile player that can perform in the post and on the wing, She has setlofty goals for her tenure in Miami.
“The first thingfor me is to dunk consistently in games,” Williams said. “It is something Iwant to do. I have stressed to CoachMeier that I have tendency to try that at least once per game, so that issomething I am looking forward to doing. I want to also at least have a double-double every game. I feel likethere are certain things that I am supposed to contribute to the team,especially being an upperclassman and being somebody who has had experience atmultiple positions. I am supposed tocome and do everything I can to help this team. I think that is one of the things I need to contribute, averaging adouble-double and being a leader and accepting my role on the squad.”
Williams will join KrystalSaunders, Suriya McGuire and the rest of the Hurricanes on the court nextseason and she expects the wins to keep coming in Coral Gables.
“I definitely feel like we are ina position to do that,” Williams said. “Coach is phenomenal. She works with youall the time to strengthen your game and add more weapons your arsenal, so Ifeel like we are going to be good and continue to establish a winningtradition. We have a lot of incoming freshmen that are capable of doing thatand we have returning players that are just as capable. We are going to be very strong. Everyone herehas a positive attitude and a great work ethic. I think that is what I am going to help continue to bring to theteam. I love to work and see myteammates get better. I just know it isgoing to be a good experience.”