January 6, 2010 11:13:00 PM
Everything has increased this season for Kala Williams.
It''s not that Williams didn''t play an important role for the Starkville High School girls basketball team last season, it''s just that things are magnified when you''re a senior.
But Williams is handling the added responsibility just fine.
The 5-foot-9 guard is averaging 19 points a game and is second on the team in rebounding (six per game). She is coming off a three-game stretch last week at the Hattiesburg Classic in which she averaged 20.7 points. She had 24 points in a victory against Brookhaven and 25 points in a victory against Oak Grove.
For her efforts, Williams is The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
"It feels like the tables have turned this year as far as me being a go-to player," Williams said. "Everything has increased on both ends of the floor."
Williams knew she would be in a bigger role this season for the Yellow Jackets (12-1 through Monday) after she talked in the summer with coach Kristie Williams (no relation). Williams told her senior-to-be she wanted her to be a leader and that she had to deliver her best effort every night.
As a player, Williams welcomed the challenge and said it was something she already was accustomed to. Her play this season has reflected her comfort level in being someone who is counted on to produce every game.
"My standards are just set higher," Williams said. "It was the same thing last year, but as a senior more is expected of me. I had to increase my effort in practice, and I feel practice carries over to the game. On game night, everything pulls together, so there shouldn''t be any problem."
Williams knew the task of becoming more of a go-to player would be tough. She said hard work has helped her adjust to the higher expectations that have been asked of her and the greater demands she has put on herself. She also credits her teammates for helping her build confidence and being key contributors to the team''s fast start.
Kristie Williams also feels Williams has adjusted well. She said Williams'' leadership has grown tremendously from last year to now. She said she recognized in the summer when she talked to Williams that her then senior-to-be liked challenges and that she enjoyed the thought of having to make big plays.
So far, Williams has made plenty.
"She is willing to commit to working on the weaker areas of her game," Williams said. "She has been willing to put in the extra time to polish the skills she already has been gifted with to make her weaknesses more of a strong point."
Williams said Kala Williams always has had that mind-set toward her game. She said she knew watching Williams play in junior high that she was a gifted athlete who had the potential to be a special player.
Williams said Kala has a knack for knowing where the ball will come off the rim, which has helped her be such a strong rebounder. She said those skills were there as a ninth-grader, and only have improved as she has matured.
The same can be said for the rest of Williams'' game.
"She is able to create off the dribble and she has a great pull-up jumper," Williams said. "She is the type of player who is tough to guard because if you try to hone in on her outside shooting she will take her player off the dribble."
But Kala Williams isn''t satisfied with what she has done. She said she has played "in spurts" and that she doesn''t believe she has had her best game yet. She said she is working on her defense and is trying to give as much effort on that end of the floor as she does on offense. She said her goal for the remainder of the season is to be a more consistent defender.
Williams has been pleased with her emergence as a leader. She said she still needs to be more vocal, but she feels that will come with time.
If she can master that skill, there is no telling how far Starkville High will be able to go this season.
"I think we have a great team and a bunch of people who can step up and any moment," Kala Williams said. "With the determination this group has we can make it anywhere. The effort has been tremendous on both ends of the floor and we have a lot of people who can play. We have great teammates and leadership and people who are willing to put down their egos and play as a team every night."
Kristie Williams said Kala''s example has helped set the tone.
"She is a student of the game," Williams said. "She is always willing to listen to the critique of what she can do better the next time around. She listens very well and really wants to do what is best for the team. That really makes her a joy to coach. He desire and her love for basketball will help her succeed and do very well at the next level."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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