December 15, 2012 10:31:54 PM
STARKVILLE -- Sherise Williams knew something didn't look right.
Her mother, Tracey Williams, encouraged her to tell someone at Mississippi State University, but she didn't.
It took Vic Schaefer a little longer, but when you have coached as many games and faced as many situations as he has, it clicked. One day at practice, Schaefer finally said to Williams, "I don't think you can see."
Williams tried to convince Schaefer her vision was fine to no avail. He wanted her to have an eye exam that day, but it took a few days for Williams to set up an appointment and get fitted for new contact lenses.
"I didn't know it was that bad. I thought I was cool," Williams said of her vision.
Improved vision is just one area Williams' game has progressed two months into her freshman season at MSU. Coming off a career-high 15-point effort in a victory against Florida Atlantic University, Williams will try to help MSU (4-5) get back to .500 at 2 p.m. today when it plays host to Florida A&M University at Humphrey Coliseum.
The 6-foot-1 forward from St. Louis has been pushed into service due to the Bulldogs' lack of depth in the frontcourt. She is averaging 6.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in 22.7 minutes, which is fourth most on the team. Her 33.9 shooting percentage from the field can be attributed in part to her not having anymore contact lens to wear when he supply ran out. When it did, Williams thought her mother was going to send her more. But Sherise said her mother told her she had to tell MSU trainer Mary McLendon so she could get more. When Sherise didn't tell anyone she needed new lenses, it wasn't surprising to see her shoot 3 of 15 from the field in 26 minutes in a 61-59 loss to Winthrop University on Nov. 20.
That performance made Schaefer wonder about Williams' vision. Checking on details like that aren't new to Schaefer, who told a story Saturday about the time he learned during a timeout that one of his players had left her contact lenses back in the hotel in another state.
With such a young team in his first season as head coach at MSU, Schaefer knows he and his assistant coaches will have to pay attention to the details to make sure everyone is prepared. He said there already has been one time this season where managers have had to go back to the dorm to retrieve contact lenses for Williams.
Still, Schaefer has been pleased with Williams' progress.
"She is my bull in the china cabinet," Schaefer said. "She is that newborn colt that I know when she matures and grows older is going to catch up to its body and is going to be a thoroughbred and a great competitor."
Schaefer's description perfectly describes Williams' first nine games. While parts of her game remain raw, her athleticism has allowed her to step right in and contribute, even though Williams feels she needs to get stronger. A little more than one month into the season, though, Williams said she is making strides and has gone from a "noodle" in terms of strength to a "green bean."
"The first three games, it was bad," Williams said. "I know I couldn't make a shot to save my life. I was rushing and my depth perception was way off, but we got it fixed now."
Williams said she has a new set of contact lenses and is waiting for her new glasses to be framed. Williams said the prescription for her lenses and glasses is similar to the one she had when she arrived at MSU.
From game one to game nine, though, the results are drastically different.
"It was funny because coach asked me, and he asks m every day now, 'Sherise, do you have your contacts in?" Williams said. "This week, I left them at home and one of the managers had to go get them for me. He was like, 'We finally get you the contacts and now you're not doing your part. You have to wear them.' I told him I was sorry."
Williams first wore the new contacts in a 61-59 loss to the University of Southern Mississippi on Dec. 1. That game, like the 3-of-15 shooting effort against Winthrop, was one to forget. Williams had nine points and 10 turnovers in 29 minutes. Two weeks later, Williams feels she has learned some valuable lessons.
"At first, I was just rushing everything and going frantically everywhere," Williams said. "I really didn't know the plays, and I am working on learning the plays more, and I would just rush everything. I would be right under the basket and I would rush everything, but I am trying to calm down, to have better shot selection and not to just throw the ball to anybody."
Williams admits it has been a challenge to calm down because she has so much energy. Prior to her interview, Williams sprinted down the hallway in Humphrey Coliseum to go to the training room to get a cup of ice. She appeared to have a bundle of energy following her individual workout, and showcased a sense of humor in a 15-minute conversation.
Williams acknowledges the college game has been a lot faster than high school or Amateur Athletic Union competition. She also admits her first steps have been tentative but that she credits her teammates and managers, especially Yasma Smith, for helping her stay relaxed and positive.
"I have four years to improve, so I am going to take it step by step," Williams said. "Our coaches work hard with us and expect a lot from us, so I have to get a lot better.
"I think I have slowed down a little bit. I hope so."
Schaefer agrees and is glad the mystery about Williams' vision has been solved. Now he has to get used to not asking Williams if she has her contact lenses in. After nearly 30 years as a coach, Schaefer is bound to check with Williams just to make sure.
"We're trying to put her in positions where she can succeed," Schaefer said. "The results from the last game are indicative of her being able to see better. She is a respectful kid who works pretty hard and is in great shape."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.