Sun rises on Courtney Williams' pro career
Technically, she made her professional debut on May 14 in Minneapolis. But the Courtney Williams familiar to Bulls fans didn't truly hit the WNBA scene until the evening of July 2.
Having been traded to the Connecticut Sun from Phoenix only a week before, Williams watched from a College Park Center bench as host Dallas built a 13-2 lead. Unable to stomach what was transpiring any longer, Sun coach Curt Miller opted for a wholesale substitution, supplanting the quintent on the floor with five off the bench.
Williams was among those who entered. What proceeded wasn't necessarily pretty, but it provided the spark Miller was seeking. Five minutes into the second quarter, Connecticut had rallied for a 26-25 lead, with Williams providing five points and six rebounds.
The Sun would hold on for an 86-83 triumph.
"We all got in and we did what coach wanted us to do: rebound, defend, score," Williams recalled, "and we put our team in a position to get back in the game."
Finally, after a frustrating commencement to her WNBA career in Phoenix, Williams had made a contribution instead of a cameo.
Buried on a Phoenix depth chart that already featured WNBA legend Diana Taurasi and three-time WNBA All-Star Penny Taylor, Williams was traded to the Sun -- a club clearly building for the future -- on June 25.
Since the trade, Williams -- a two-time first-team All-American Athletic Conference pick and the No. 2 scorer in USF history -- has averaged 6.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 13.1 minutes in nine contests.
The 24 minutes she logged in a four-point loss to Minnesota on July 7 equaled the minutes she totaled in six contests with Phoenix, which drafted her with the eighth overall pick in April.
"A way better fit as far as basketball-wise, getting the playing time and fitting into a system," Williams said of her new team in a recent phone interview. "I think this definitely works for me."
Her voice elicits the same exuberance it possessed on draft night, when Phoenix general manager Jim Pitman spoke of how Williams could provide a new dimension of "speed and quickness" to an all-star-caliber roster.
She ultimately provided only one field goal, in six games.
"I mean, it was definitely frustrating, but I think I was just being positive," Williams said. "My teammates needed a cheerleader, I was there. I just wanted to fit in where I could. I didn't want to be a Debbie Downer, so I was just doing whatever the team needed."
Now, she suddenly finds herself around peers with whom she can grow. Connecticut, among the WNBA's youngest teams, is 8-16 and in last place in the Eastern Division.
Williams, who will play professionally in Cyprus when the WNBA season ends, is among eight Sun players 25 or younger. She says she has been greeted warmly by the Connecticut fan base, already familiar with her hops, fleetness and dead-eye mid-range jump shot from her collegiate battles against UConn.
Among her new teammates: former Huskies low-post star Morgan Tuck.
"I definitely think we have a lot of potential," Williams said. "I think as far as when we learn the game a little bit more and we all get in sync a little bit better, I think we'll definitely be a tough team to beat."