For the past four years, Coastal Carolina guard DJ Williams has been tearing up the hardwood. Now, the 2019-2020 Sun Belt Player of the Year hopes to continue that dominance at the professional level.
The 2020 WNBA Draft will be held this Friday virtually with the top prospects taking part remotely. It will be televised on ESPN with coverage starting at 7 p.m.
Williams, who finished her career at CCU as the third all-time leading scorer with 1,582 points, became the first Chanticleer in program history to receive a WNBA Draft Combine invitation.
“I am very honored and grateful,” she said. “This is something I have dreamed of. Overall, I’m thankful that they saw me and they liked what they saw was enough to actually invite me.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year‘s WNBA draft combine was not held. Despite not having the event this year, Williams is still doing all she can to stay fit and healthy if the opportunity arrives for her to play professional ball.
“I have been eating healthy and working out consistently,” she said. “I have been working on building a stronger core and a stronger back. Just trying to get that WNBA body.”
Williams’ career at Coastal has been one of the most prolific in program history. While she finished third in career points, she also ranks eighth in rebounds (670), fifth in steals (200) and second in assists (415). And while she may have come onto the national scene following her 51-point performance in a dominating 124-103 win over Troy back on Feb. 13, Coastal Carolina Athletics Director Matt Hogue said there's “no question” she has WNBA talent.
“She has a lot of passion for the game,” he said. “She can defend. She’s quick. She obviously has a knack for scoring and she can easily play a role on a professional team.”
The WNBA Draft consists of three rounds and 12 selections within those rounds. Williams is currently listed by ESPN as the 52nd best available option for the 2020 WNBA draft. Many fans, teammates and alumni hope to see a pro team pick the CCU star.
“I hope she gets a shot,” said Brooke Weisbrod, an analyst for ESPN who played for CCU from 1997 to 2001. “She is such a great add to any roster. She has incredible game to her and she’s so inventive with her moves.”
Weisbrod, who was a member of the last team to win 20 games in a single season for CCU back in the 1999-2000 season, said Williams brings so much to the game and could catch the eyes of some WNBA scouts.
“If she was able to at least get a tryout, I think she can impress some people,” Weisbrod said.
Williams’ story is like one taken out of a movie. In her freshman year back in 2015, she had to leave the program after being diagnosed with cancer. She took the entire year off only to come back and become a key player at a Division I program, put her name in numerous Top 10 school records and win conference player of the year. A chance to play professional basketball seems like another great addition to an already compelling story.
“It also seems destined. It can’t end here,” Williams said. “I have so much more to give to the game of basketball that when people look back and my collegiate career and hopefully my professional career, they are able to look at that and say I gave it everything I had.”
If she is selected, Williams would be the first player in Coastal Carolina women’s basketball history to be drafted and the first Sun Belt Player since Middle Tennessee State’s Chrissy Givens was selected 31st overall by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2007 WNBA Draft.
“It will be fantastic,” Hogue said. “It will bring back memories of when Joseph Ngwenya was drafted by the LA Galaxy in the 2004 MLS draft or what we experience every June when we hear who from our baseball program is being selected by MLB teams. That is a very legitimizing force in one sense for the level of competition that your athletic department plays.”
While Williams grew up a fan of the Los Angeles Sparks and has collected memorabilia from players such as Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker and Chrissy Toliver, she said she would honored to play on any team.
“It would be a dream to play for the Sparks, but just being in the league itself, it doesn’t matter where I’m at,” Williams said. “I’m not afraid of not being in California, seeing that I spent five years in South Carolina. It doesn’t matter if it’s Chicago, Connecticut, Atlanta, Seattle, Dallas. I would be honored to play on any team.”