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Williams making her mark

Oak Ridge grad excelling at Lewis & Clark College
By: Matt Long
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It hasn’t taken Kristina Williams long to make her mark playing basketball at the collegiate level. Williams, a 2009 graduate of Oak Ridge High and sophomore at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., is the team’s leading scorer and arguably best all-around player and is having the time of her life. “Basketball has been going great,” the 19-year-old Williams said. “Right now we’re tied for first in our conference. The top-four teams advance to the conference tournament we’re hoping to get a bid to the NCAA tournament.” A conference title and NCAA bid would be the first in the school’s history, so it’s a big deal to Williams and her teammates. Lewis & Clark is a Division III school and their athletic teams are members of the Northwest Conference, where the women’s basketball team tied for first place with a 14-2 record and has an 20-5 mark overall. The team opens postseason play at home this week. Williams has played a big role in the team’s success, as she can do it all. “Kristina’s primary position is shooting guard with the expectation on every night she can play any position from point guard to post player,” said Pioneers’ coach Juli Fulks. “We use her versatility to create offensive and defensive match-ups that play to our advantage.” Williams has started all 23 games this season and is averaging 16 points a game, tops on the team, and also averages five rebounds and three assists. On the court, there’s not much she can’t do. “Kristina has been invaluable in her flexibility on the court and her willingness to focus on different aspects of her game depending on nightly match-ups,” Fulks said. “Due to her all-around ability, she is ranked in the top-15 players in 11 different statistical categories. Her high basketball IQ allows her to understand mismatches and how she might exploit them as a scorer, passer, or rebounder.” As for Williams, she’s worked hard to improve her game, but had no idea that she’d be playing so well in only her sophomore season. “I didn’t expect this success at all, but I’m excited about it,” Williams said. “Coming from Oak Ridge helped me a lot because we practiced hard there and played at a high level. I felt I was more prepared than some other girls last year because I knew what hard work was coming from Oak Ridge. I worked hard in the offseason (after my freshman year) to make fewer turnovers, even though that’s hard to practice. This year I have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. My shooting percentage is better and I worked to get a lot faster, too, which has improved my defense.” Williams can score in a variety of ways. She has improved her perimeter shot and usually knocks down a couple three-pointers a game, but can also drive to the basket and is money at the free throw line, making 85 percent (92-of-108) of her attempts. “Kristina’s primary strength is her work ethic and passion for the game,” Fulks said. “She has a natural ability to score but worked tirelessly in the offseason to improve her shooting range and countering that by attacking the rim. Additionally, she is 29th in the nation in free throw percentage, which means she puts a lot of pressure of the defense to guard her to 22 feet but still containing the drive without fouling. The best thing about Kristina is she constantly wants to improve and expand her game and become a better passer, rebounder, defender, and floor leader.” Williams has found her niche at Lewis & Clark, both athletically where she’s excelling, as is her team, but also academically, where she’s majoring in psychology with a minor in math. She hopes to one day be an elementary school teacher because, she said, she loves working with kids. Only a sophomore, Williams has plenty of time for continued improvement and growth, both in the classroom and on the court. While she loves college life, she also hasn’t forgotten about her days at Oak Ridge. She was thrilled, if not a little envious, too, when the team won the state championship last year. “I was super happy for them, but I wished it could have happened a year earlier,” Williams said. “I’m still happy, though, because we accomplished a lot when I was there too.”