Christyn Williams doesn't lack confidence. One of two freshmen joining the UConn women's team, she and Olivia Nelson-Ododa are looking to make an immediate impact, one that Williams believes will help UConn claim the recently elusive national title.
"We're going to get that championship," Williams said Monday at Geno Auriemma's annual Fore The Kids charity golf tournament. "People are going to feel UConn. We're going to win the national championship."
A national championship prediction would be bold by any measure and coming from a freshman even more so. But Williams is also playing for a coach who has won 11 national titles and has only three losses since the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
Williams spoke after Auriemma at the charity event and the coach wasn't around to comment on the freshman's forecast for the team's season. But just prior, Auriemma said he expects the freshmen to be contributing factors.
"They better have an impact this year," Auriemma said. "I would think. I'm not saying we're going to go into any game and say 'Listen, it's on you guys.' That's not going to happen, but we certainly need them to play and be a part of it. They didn't come here to sit on the bench, neither of them. And they didn't come here to watch and cheer. They came here to play, and they're going to contribute, believe me. They're going to contribute a lot. They really are."
Williams and Nelson-Ododa spent time answering questions alongside teammates at Auriemma's tournament, held at the Hartford Golf Club on Monday. The event raises money for the Connecticut Children's Medical Center. This year the event helped raise money for the new Infusion & Dialysis Center, as well as a portable, real-time imaging system for the Division of Orthopedics.
Beautiful day at Coach’s Fore the Kids Charity Golf Tournament! pic.twitter.com/PK4eM048uo— UConn Women's Hoops (@UConnWBB) June 25, 2018
With UConn losing Azura Stevens, Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams to the WNBA, Nelson-Ododa and Williams understand they will likely be needed to perform early in the season. The realization doesn't worry them despite most freshmen having a season to get acclimated before being expected to contribute heavily.
"Of course I'm prepared," Williams said. "I've been playing basketball since I was 3. I was born to do this. This is why I came to Connecticut, because I wanted to get better and I knew I was going to have to step up and play because he needs me. So I'm just really excited to do that."
Coming out of high school Williams was the No. 1 ranked recruit by ESPN and the 2018 Gatorade national player of the year and Naismith player of the year. She's in her second year as a member of USA's national team.
While Nelson-Ododa isn't as outwardly confident as Williams, she said she's excited about the opportunity to potentially see playing time early.
"Right away I believe I can bring my skill set in terms of running the floor and working hard," Nelson-Ododa said. "That's mainly what I can do, and anything that comes along with that I'm determined to bring."
Nelson-Ododa was the No. 5 ranked recruit and a 2018 McDonald's All American out of high school. She is also a two-time member of the USA national team.
The pair's teammates describe them as hardworking and eager, but there's always a learning curve between high school and college that players must face. As junior Crystal Dangerfield said, "You just have to get through your freshman year, and you hate to say it like that, but that's kind of what it is."The freshmen are already experiencing some of the growing pains as they join in workouts with the team. They aren't in the shape Auriemma wants, and despite multiple teammates and Auriemma praising Williams' strength, this is the first time she's lifted weights in her career. Auriemma sees promise in them that they'll be there by October.
"One of the big differences between these two freshmen and last year's freshmen is that these two understand that it's hard, and they understand that it's supposed to be really hard, and they accept it and they welcome it," Auriemma said.
This article is written by Kelli Stacy from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.