Williams named The Olympian’s All-Area Player of the Year
Maisy Williams is determined.
As sophomore, she had a tooth knocked out in the Class 2A state basketball tournament. Before she could play in another official game as a junior, an opponent’s knee broke her jaw during a jamboree. This season, she missed the bulk of her senior year when she broke a finger during the fourth game and needed surgery.
Yet, each time she came back, a major component of Black Hills teams that brought home a state trophy every year of her career — including a sixth-place finish at this year’s 2A tournament in Yakima.
For these reasons, Williams is the The Olympian’s All-Area girls basketball player of the year.
For good measure, she also helped Black Hills reach the state volleyball tournament in 2017, won the 2A state long jump title last season, and finished second in the high jump.
“The night she got her tooth knocked out at state (in a semifinals loss to Burlington-Edison in 2017), she asked me if there was any way she could play the next day,” Wolves coach Tanya Greenfield said. “She’s a fighter.”
Clearly, Williams’ story is one of individual toughness triumphing over adversity. But, that’s not quite the way she sees it.
“At times, it was really hard. I got injured so often it couldn’t help but make me sad,” she said. “I thank God I had such great support from my mom (Tina). She really lifted me up. My dad, too — my whole family.”
The broken jaw, which left her mouth wired shut for five weeks, was particularly hard. Expected to lose 10 or 15 pounds, the already-slender Williams dropped 22.
“I struggled a lot with that,” she said.
She drank nutritional shakes advertised as diet food for the elderly. She disliked a cookbook aimed at those with broken jaws, and concocted some unusual recipes of her own — anything that packed calories into a meal she could slurp.
“I took a can of baked beans and blended it with whipping cream, avocado oil and olive oil,” she said.
For more traditional fare, she would visit a local smoothie shop daily. That’s when she noticed her teammates and the community stepping up to help.
“People started giving me gift cards to Emerald City Smoothie,” she said. “I’m so thankful for everyone and everything. Doctors and dentists, and friends and family. It was such a community effort.”
Greenfield appreciated that Williams’ struggles were never obvious to her teammates.
“All of her injuries were freakish and unexpected,” Greenfield said. “But, she never got down in front of the team. She’s been voted ‘Most Inspirational’ every year because her teammates saw her going through things they couldn’t.”
Family connections nudged Williams toward sports as a child. Her father, Butch, was a three-time all-Pac 10 tight end at Washington State, and played briefly for the Cleveland Browns.
“I never had a confidence issue. I have my mom’s long and lanky build, but people said I looked like my dad and had his athleticism,” said Williams, who has signed to play at Central Washington University next season.
“I never thought I wouldn’t play in college. If my dad was great, then I could be great.”
Her confidence spills over to her teammates.
“She’s meant security for our other players,” Greenfield said. “Our girls feel more confident with her on the floor.”
Opponents have noticed.
W.F. West defeated Black Hills three times in league and district play, each time by at least 11 points. Then, in the fourth and most important meeting — a loser-out game at the Yakima Valley SunDome that would assure the winner a state trophy — Black Hills rallied from an early deficit to down the defending state champion Bearcats, 63-55.
Williams didn’t score a lot, tallying just five points, but did a little of everything — snatching eight rebounds, adding two assists, a block and a steal.
For the season, she averaged a double-double with 10.3 points and 10.5 rebounds, to go with 3.5 blocks per game.
“No one’s played Black Hills more than we have (eight times in the past two seasons),” W.F. West coach Tom Kelly said. “And I saw a different girl at districts and state. She had a different swagger about her. My players knew it.
“She was a senior saying ‘I’m going to do this.’ And she did.”
In an earlier Southwest District tournament win over Tumwater, Greenfield had a conversation with Williams before tipoff.
“She said, ‘Don’t take me off the floor,’ then went out and completely dominated,” Greenfield said of Black Hills’ 54-39 rout, which reversed the outcome of two T-Birds victories during the 2A Evergreen Conference season.
“Maisy changes the dynamic of their team,” Tumwater coach Robin Johnson said. “She makes her teammates better. Even if she isn’t leading in stats, she’s leading their team. She changes what we’re able to do on offense and on defense.”
Williams recognizes her ability to spark others.
“I’ve been told my heart is contagious,” she said. “If I care, other people care, too.”
Of course, want-to only takes a player so far in a search for a scholarship.
“Colleges loved her athleticism and the way she can take over a game,” Greenfield said. “They liked her rebounding, how she can get up and down the court and block shots.”
Greenfield believes Williams could have succeeded as a college athlete in volleyball or track and field had she not chosen basketball.
Williams appreciates the physical benefits playing volleyball and competing in track have brought — better vertical leap and hand-eye coordination, a faster top running speed and improved timing — but feels a stronger affection and loyalty to basketball.
“When you work so long at something, it takes an immense part of your heart,” she said. “Basketball’s what I’ve played the longest. I love being part of a team.
“Throughout my life, I’ve never had any drama in basketball. Great teammates, fantastic coaches.”