Coastal Carolina standout and Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year DJ Williams is taking her talents to Italy.
On Friday, Williams signed with Gesam Gas Le Mura Lucca of the Serie A1, the top women’s basketball league in Italy.
“This is a moment I’ve been waiting for since I was 4 or 5 years old,” Williams said.
The Lucca team Williams will play for next season was sitting in sixth place of the Serie A1 table with a record of 11-8. The team had a great start to the year, going 7-2, but ended up stumbling midway through the season before COVID-19 shut down all sports in Italy and around the world.
Whenever she does get the chance to go over to Italy, Williams said she is looking forward to embracing a new culture.
“I had a teammate from Italy, Mery Visone, at Coastal a couple years ago and I fell in love with the culture that she talked about and introduced us to,” Williams said. “So I am definitely looking forward to having some authentic pizza, other Italian dishes and just learn every day about the culture.”
After cancer sidelined her as a freshman, Williams rebounded to earn her spot in Coastal’s record books.
She ranks third all-time in scoring in Coastal women’s basketball history.
Williams was at the top of her game throughout her senior campaign with the Chanticleers, averaging 19.4 points per game, as well as 7.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists.
She burst onto the national scene after dropping 51 points on Troy in February during a battle for first place in the conference.
The 51 points were the most scored by any D1 player, men’s or women’s, in a game during the 2019-20 season.
She followed that performance up with her first career triple-double, earning not only a Sun Belt Player of the Week award but also the espnW National Player of the Week award.
Signing a professional contract is another chapter in her growing legacy.
“I am thankful for everyone that has helped me along this journey,” she said. “From coaches to teammates to family and friends and my agent, I am so grateful.”
Williams joins a short list of Coastal Carolina women’s basketball players to reach the professional ranks (Brooke Weisbrod and Angelica Henry also did). But with former teammate Naheria Hamilton signing with a sports representation agency in early May, there’s a possibility that more than one member of Coastal’s class of 2020 will have a professional contract this summer.
“I believe that we have created an environment at Coastal Carolina that shows that while we are a small university, you can come here and become a top athlete and make your way to the professional level,” Williams said. “When people look at the top athletics in basketball, they think of UConn, Tennessee, Duke, Kentucky and others. When you think of Coastal Carolina, you don’t usually think of professional athletes. So I hope that what we accomplished this past season and what my teammates are doing now shows the community in Conway that there are some incredibly talented athletes playing down the road at CCU.”
With things being up in the air for many sports leagues around the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, Williams is unsure when she will be able to travel to Italy and settle down.
“If restrictions get lifted and everything starts to get better, I will be leaving in August,” she said. “But if not, then it’s really a toss up at that point.”
In the meantime, Williams has been continuing to work on her game, sometimes traveling an hour and a half to two hours to the nearest gym to work out and shoot around.
“I don’t have a job or school to worry about at the moment, so now is the time to dedicate myself and all my time to the game of basketball,” Williams said. “This is a great time for me to put work in, acquire more knowledge and refine my game.”
Whenever the season does begin for Serie A1, Williams said she will be ready and looks forward to doing what she normally does on the court. She hopes to show the WNBA teams why they shouldn’t have overlooked her in the draft.
“This is really an opportunity for me to shine,” Williams said. “This really is a great opportunity for me to showcase what I have done my entire life and show everyone that I can play professional basketball, not just in America but internationally as well.”