Washington duo looking for records, first trip to NCAA tournament
SEATTLE -- Basketball is all about judging your opponent.
And there's no more deceptive player than Washington senior Aminah Williams.
Jazmine Davis remembers when she saw her new teammate for the first time when they were freshmen.
"The first thing I thought was, 'Man, she's going to get crushed.' I immediately thought she was a shooting guard," Davis said.
Four years later and it's actually the UW rebounding record that could get smashed.
Williams has 835 career rebounds. If she has a third consecutive 350-plus rebound total this season, Williams will easily surpass Amber Hall's UW record of 1,003 rebounds.
"Yeah, it's ironic that Aminah's actually this rebounding machine," Davis said.
Williams is a lithe 6-foot forward with looks made for television and a personality that could carry a comedy skit.
Those eye-catching attributes aren't evident when she plays basketball. Arms appear to extend twice their length as Williams uses her springlike jumping ability to gather rebounds or loose balls. Fingertips swat at dribbles and passes for steals. And on fast breaks, Williams seems to be turbocharged to race in for layins.
Her father will take credit for any offense. Guy Williams was dubbed "The Fly" in high school in the 1970s for the way the 6-foot-9 point guard flew in for dunks. He starred at Washington State, but a knee injury his senior season limited his pro career to two seasons in the NBA and five years overseas.
"She obviously has the pedigree, if you believe in that," said her father, who was often compared to Magic Johnson before his injury. "But Aminah has exceeded any expectation I had of her being a D-I athlete. The role that she's taken on as a big [post player] when she's really a three [small forward] is really remarkable."
Davis also is on pace to go to No.1 on a UW chart as the school's leading scorer. Jamie Redd holds the record at 2,027 points in a career that ended in 1999. Davis currently is fourth on the career list with 1,753 points. She averaged 18.8 points last season for the Huskies, who finished 20-14.
"Sometimes I'll brick something and Aminah will catch it and put it back up," said Davis, who always thanks Williams after she makes those plays.
"I got you, girl," Williams responds with a fist bump on the way to play defense.
"Having Aminah out there is really comforting to me," Davis said. "Eight or nine times out of 10, I know she's going to catch that pass or get that rebound. She's really progressed in that area from being kind of timid as a freshman to now taking contact and finishing."
The duo doesn't want to only reset Redd's and Hall's records, however. They want to mimic their predecessors' NCAA tournament trips. Redd and Hall, who both played from 1995 to 1999, advanced twice under former coach June Daugherty.
The Huskies have flirted with at-large bids the past two seasons. Each year resume-building victories against NCAA-tournament teams like Stanford, California or Wisconsin were stained by late-season losing streaks or a first-round Pac-12 tournament defeat last season.
|WASHINGTON'S PAST THREE YEARS|
Mike Neighbors, in his second year as the UW head coach, also designed the schedule to help UW's chances of getting an at-large NCAA berth if unable to nab the automatic bid by winning the Pac-12 tournament. UW opens the season on the road Friday against Oklahoma, which has advanced to the NCAA tournament the past 15 seasons.
ACC power Florida State (Nov. 27) and No. 5 Texas A&M (Dec. 29) also are on the nonconference lineup. The Pac-12 home opener is against No. 6 Stanford, which UW defeated at Alaska Airlines Arena last season.
Davis and Williams should finish the season as the Huskies' career leaders in scoring and rebounding.
"It's so close, I'd love to break that record," said Williams, who was fourth in the Pac-12 in rebounding last season (10.4 per game) and averaged 7.4 points. "Averaging a double-double is also a goal. But the focus is on doing whatever to help this team get wins. We need to [regain] that competitive edge where we're talked about every year as an NCAA tournament team."