Mabton's Williams a star at WWU
Dec. 28, 2012
By Roger Underwood, Sports Writer, Yakima Herald-Republic
YAKIMA, Wash. - After asking Trishi Williams a number of questions during a pleasant and enlightening interview, she had one for me.
"Could you include in your article," she requested, "that kids from small towns don't have to act small?"
"Sure," I said. "Good idea."
Especially if kids from small towns follow Williams' inspiring example.
She is, after all, from Mabton, a little Lower Valley community known primarily as the place where Mel Stottlemyre grew up (his birthplace is Hazelton, Mo.). And while Williams will not make Mabtonians forget Mel -- no one will -- she has made a big-time basketball name for herself, first at Columbia Basin College and currently at Western Washington University, where she is one of the best players on a nationally-ranked team.
In doing so Williams has neither acted nor played small. But then, she didn't do that at Mabton, either.
There she was do-everything athlete who earned 12 varsity letters in basketball, volleyball and track and field. Williams still throws the javelin, in fact, at Western.
As a Mabton senior, Williams was co-Most Valuable Player in basketball of the SCAC after averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds, and those numbers got the attention of CBC coach Cheryl Holden.
But what made her a priority for the highly-successful Hawks program was Williams' performance in the 2009 Media Classic in Pasco.
There Williams seemed to not only belong with players from bigger schools, she excelled.
PLAYING WITH TOUGHNESS
"To play with that level of toughness was very impressive," Holden said. "Not that people don't play hard in all-star games, but I was, like, `Wow.'"
And she stayed "Wow" for the next two years as the 5-foot-9 Williams was named MVP of the East Region and was a second-team all-NWAACC Tournament as a sophomore. On a CBC team that finished 26-3 and reached the tournament's final four, she averaged 12 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists, shooting 49 percent from the field and 76 percent from the foul line.
Williams was also her team's captain. And she led, virtually every day, by example.
"She plays so hard that if you're not playing as hard and not doing your job," Holden said, "You feel guilty. So Trishi's work ethic and how hard she plays are very contagious.
"Also, when Trishi came to CBC she went to the weight room and benched 19 to 20 reps of 95 pounds. No one had ever done that. So I'm looking at her and going, `What?'"
What was next for Williams, at that point, was uncertain.
Though contacted by Eastern Oregon and schools in Montana to play hoops, Williams chose Western as her next stop for academic reasons. She had been valedictorian of her class at Mabton and earned all-academic acclaim by the NWAACC while at Columbia Basin.
Her plan, after completing a kinesiology degree at Western, is to become at athletic trainer.
In the meantime there is basketball to be played and games to be won for Williams, who was very good last season for the Vikings and so far this season has been even better.
A preseason all-GNAC selection in a poll of coaches, Williams is averaging 11.2 points with a .561 field goal percentage, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.4 steals per game. Her scoring average ranks second on the Viks, she's fourth in rebounding, is tied for first in assists and holds the outright lead in steals.
And impressive as those numbers are, her coach says they don't do Williams justice.
"There are a lot of things she does for us," WWU coach Carmen Dolfo said, "but the biggest things are hustle, hard work and how she plays with so much heart."
Yes, Trishi (short for Patricia) made the needed adjustment of moving from arid eastern Washington to the rainbelt. "Oh yeah," she said, "I had to do my shopping for raincoats, hats and shoes. But once I got used to it, it's not so bad."
But there was another, more crucial change to be made before Williams became an integral part of her team.
ADJUSTING TO A NEW STYLE
"It took me awhile to make the transition to Western's style of play," she said. "Carmen is a really tough coach, and at first I thought I knew what I was doing. But it took a long time for me to get through my stubbornness, to realize that she was right and I was wrong."
Said Dolfo, "I think the biggest thing was that we're very big on defense at Western. That's a major point of emphasis for us. Trishi was very talented offensively, but at that point didn't have the defensive game. So it took her awhile to develop that, but she was never a problem."
Slow start aside, Williams played in all 30 games last season, starting 20 and finishing with averages of 9.4 points and 4.6 rebounds. And her defining moment -- for both then and now -- might well have come in a GNAC Tournament game against Alaska Anchorage.
"I actually got into an altercation with one of their players," Williams said, "and we both ended up getting technicals. We'd played them twice before and they'd beaten us by more than 20 points both times. The third time it was mostly a three-point game the whole time, even though we lost again, and the girl I got into it with was a lot taller than me.
"They separated us, and our whole team stood up for me. It was a trust factor. And I wanted to make sure that the other player knew we were never going to back down."
Not that Williams seeks out physical or verbal confrontations.
"I'm not really like that," she said. "Since then I've matured. Now I just walk away. Carmen has helped me with that sort of thing -- she's helped me both as a basketball player and as a person."
And of course Williams has helped Western, which is 8-2 and ranked 20th nationally.
"We have players who if they make mistakes or get stressed out, we sub them out," Dolfo said. "If Trishi makes a mistake, we don't sub her out. We think the world of her -- she's just a great kid."
And a person from little Mabton, who has neither played nor acted small.
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