Williams has chance to fulfill Destiny
Baylor forward traveled marked path to get to title game
Baylor junior Destiny Williams’ mother knew when she named her baby daughter that she was fated to do something big one day.
On Tuesday night, Williams will get her chance to live out her mother Angelia Brohiri’s premonition when the Lady Bears face Notre Dame with a perfect 40-0 record and NCAA title on the line.
Williams was named for her mother’s best friend, who passed away at a young age.
“They were so close,” Williams said. “She had a feeling I was destined for something great and she wanted to name after her best friend.”
The name is certainly fitting for Williams, who enjoyed a terrific high school basketball career at Benton High School in Benton Harbor, Mich.
“I wanted to play ball there because my mom and older sister played there,” Williams said. “I didn’t want to mess that up. I wanted to be just like my family when it came to basketball.”
Williams did not disappoint. She set career records at Benton H.S. with 2,058 points and 1,475 rebounds, garnering spots on the McDonald's, Parade, Max Prep and Sporting News All-American teams and claimed 2009 Gatorade Michigan Girls Basketball Player of the Year honors.
Out of high school, she signed with the University of Illinois, becoming the school’s first McDonald’s All-American signee.
But after just a few months, she took charge of her personal destiny and made a life-changing decision. Williams transferred to Baylor after her first semester at Illinois. Due to NCAA transfer rules, she sat out the spring semester of the 2009-10 season and the fall semester of the 2010-11 season.
Williams made her debut for the Lady Bears last season against Clemson in the Bahamas Sunsplash Shootout, and ended up starting 20 games, and contributing 7.1 rebounds and 8.7 points per game as a sophomore. She claimed last year’s Big 12 Newcomer of the Year award, providing a strong presence in the paint when teams were double and triple-teaming six-foot-eight superstar Brittney Griner.
This season, with opponents more and more focused on how to contain Griner, Williams has quietly racked up 13 double-doubles, including a 15-point, 13-rebound performance in the Lady Bears’ victory against Notre Dame on Nov. 20.
“I think she does a great job working off Griner when the double team comes,” Notre Dame junior Skylar Diggins said. “She finds her open spots and she finishes around the rim. She can also step out and shoot it … that’s what makes her dangerous.”
Williams grabbed a team-leading 10 boards in the semifinal contest against Stanford’s Ogumike sisters in what Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said was one of her better defensive performances of the season. She leads the squad with 19 double-digit rebounding games, one more than Griner.
“I know if I don’t get a rebound I can always count on Destiny,” Griner said. “She works well in the post with me and finding me and letting me find her. She’s knocking down shots at the top which help get the defender off, second or third defender off me and she’s my other post player.”
An 18-point night against Georgia Tech in regional semifinals followed by nine rebounds against Tennessee, earned Williams Des Moines Regional All-Tournament Team honors.
“Destiny can rebound,” sophomore guard Odyssey Sims said. “She’s going to beat you. Even if she doesn’t have any points, she’ll have double-digit rebounds. That’s something a lot of people don’t do.”
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw believes Williams will be the X-factor in the Baylor-Notre Dame match-up, despite all of the hype surrounding Griner and Sims.
“In a lot of games you'll see she's really doing great things to offset the defense on Griner, and then a lot of games they're bringing Griner high and giving it to her on the block,” McGraw said. “I think she really is the unsung hero of their team. She's played well all year, rebounded well, scores, can shoot the jumper, can score on the block, rebounds. And that's what makes them dangerous.”