July 19, 2013 12:05:51 PM
Morgan William appears to be an ideal fit for Mississippi State University women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer's defensive mind-set.
If anyone should know it is Aqua Franklin.
Schaefer recruited Franklin, a 5-foot-3 point guard, when he was a coach at Texas A&M University. Although undersized, Franklin possessed the tenacity Schaefer -- whose nickname is "the Secretary of Defense" -- loved and knew would become an integral piece in making the Aggies a contender. According to Schaefer, Franklin was ranked in the mid 200s, but she still helped Texas A&M win 16, 23, 25, and 29 games in her four years at point guard. As a senior, Franklin helped lead Texas A&M to the Elite Eight, and then went on to play in the WNBA.
Franklin hopes William will be the same kind of player at MSU. On Sunday, William, a 5-4 point guard from Shades Valley High School in Birmingham, Ala., gave a verbal commitment to attend MSU. The commitment was extra special because it came on William's 17th birthday.
"I have been liking them for a while," William said. "They were consistent calling me and sending me letters, and it felt like home."
William, a first-team pick to the Alabama Sports Writers Association's Class 6A All-State team and the 2013 Birmingham News North/East Player of the Year, said she chose MSU because she didn't want to go too far away from home or stay too close. She said Schaefer's hard-nosed style of play and the relationship she built with Franklin, who helped recruit her, made her decision easier. In fact, she said she had a feeling in June after visiting MSU that she wanted to go to school there. She said she didn't plan on making the announcement on her birthday, but she called Schaefer that morning to give him the news.
William chose MSU over the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Alabama, the University of Missouri, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Memphis, and others.
"I know coach Schafer likes to get after it and go hard," William said. "That is all I do. I get up and go up and down the floor and play defense and get people open."
William averaged 14.1 points per game, shot 53 percent from the field, and had nearly five steals a game last season. She said her speed and her long arms help her be a pest on defense and a nuisance on offense who is capable of weaving through a press and making things happen in a flash.
"Her center of gravity is so low to the floor and she is so fast it is unreal," Shades Valley High girls basketball coach Tonya Hunter said. "After we score a bucket she is right there behind (the other team) on defense. She is really cat quick."
Hunter, who said she is a defensive coach like Schaefer, said William blossomed as a middle schooler and took off after she was promoted to the junior varsity team. She credits William for playing with a high level of intensity whenever she is on the floor. She believes that attitude will serve her well at MSU.
"Morgan is a defensive player first. That is what she is best at," Hunter said. "I am so happy for her choosing Mississippi State and coach Schaefer. I know he is going to rebuild the program, and she is the person to help do that."
Dan Olson, of Dan Olson's Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, has William ranked 278th in the Class of 2014. He said she can create offense on either end of the floor.
"She is one of the most explosive kids off the dribble in the country," Olson said. "She is really difficult to trap and to defend in an extended pressure situation. If people try to do that, she just goes right through them and weaves through them for a layup."
Olson said William needs to work on her outside shooting, but he said she is a deft penetrator who also can lock up an opponent just like Schaefer wants. Like Hunter, he feels William and MSU is a good fit.
"As Aqua Franklin said, she emulated her when she was that age," Olson said. "Back in the day, people missed out on Aqua Franklin because she was 5-3 and she made herself a player. This kid is 5-4, and (Schaefer and Franklin) will try to make William a better player, too."
All-Star Girls Report's Bret McCormick has William ranked 254th in country. He said William can score in a variety of ways and that she reminds him of Franklin.
"She is really quick and aggressive," McCormick said. "She kind of does everything. She is really athletic and an explosive-leaper type."
When asked just how fast she is, William said people have told her she at times looks like she is "gliding through the air." If that's the case, Schaefer and Franklin will find a few ways to put that speed to use on defense.
College coaches can't comment on signings until they receive a signed National Letter of Intent. William's verbal commitment won't be official until she signs a NLI, but she said she doesn't plan on changing her mind.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.