Q+A: Liz Williams
All-American center talks defense, Duke Basketball and more.
by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup
“I have also been trying to master blocking with my left hand now so I don’t have to reach across my body.”
It’s a sentence uttered by Duke center Liz Williams, a sentence that’s sure to send shivers down the spine of all ACC coaches. The explosive center posted 116 blocks in her first year at Durham, and already, she ranks top-10 in Duke history.
But altering shots is not all Liz does very well. The Virginia native has shown a smooth post game and nice range in her jumper. During an interview with SLAMonline, the versatile center talked about her thoughts on lowering the rim in women’s basketball, the possibility of leaving college early for the WNBA, Duke Basketball and more.
SLAM: You were the 2011 Morgan Wooten National Player of the Year and back-to-back First-Team Parade All-American. Why Duke over the host of other schools that offered?
Liz Williams: The academics side of Duke really is what pulled me into this program. It was really important to me, and Duke is one of the best. They have always had a strong team, but haven’t won a title, so this would be a good opportunity to not play too far from home and win a National Championship.
SLAM: You were the consensus National Freshman of the Year—earning honors from ESPN.com, USBWA and Full Court. Why do you think you made the transition so smooth?
LW: A think a combination. I had a very solid high school coach and they always tried to play a strong schedule. Also playing USA Basketball really helped. The opportunity to play with a couple college players and have some college coaches around me really helped my growth. The coaches were willing to teach, yet allowed me to play my game some.
SLAM: You also won ACC Defensive Player of the Year at Duke. It seems like you take so much pride on that side of the floor with the passion that you exhibit on defense.
LW: I feel like being dominant on the defensive side of the ball is key to success. I try to do my job and intimidate people and really defend the rim.
SLAM: You averaged over 5 blocks per each year in high school. You didn’t slow down going into your first year at Duke with a record 12 blocks against Wake Forest. Is blocking shots an art to you?
LW: I think it’s really about timing. I think you look at many of the greats in regards to shot blocking—each had a good feel of the game and when to jump. You also have to be smart because once teams realize how strong you are at blocking shots, they will begin to pump fake a lot.
SLAM: Have you been working on not only blocking the shot, but also keeping it in bounds or sending in the direction of teammates?
LW: Yeah I am. I have also been trying to master blocking with my left hand now so I don’t have to reach across my body.
SLAM: Are you a fan of the WNBA? Who are some of your favorite players?
LW: Actually I am a big fan of the guard play in the WNBA. I am also a fan of how aggressive Tina Charles is. She has grown on me, and she is dominant down low.
SLAM: What did you think about Coach Auriemma’s suggestion to think about lowering the rim in women’s college basketball?
LW: I don’t really think it’s needed. I don’t think it is a trademark of women’s basketball in general, dunking that is.
SLAM: Last year you suffered a stress fracture in your right leg during the Blue Devils’ NCAA Tournament games in March. What was your workout regimen in the summer to get back on time?
LW: A lot of the summer I spent in rehab and resting, really. We wanted to let it heal and take our time. Toward the fall we began to put weight on the bone and test it out.
SLAM: Any games or head-to-head matchups you looking forward to this year?
LW: I don’t really look at the schedule that much. I try to take it one week at a time. I think we have a very nice non-conference schedule this year though, that will be exciting and get us ready for ACC play.
SLAM: How is it playing along Chelsea Gray, and how do you ladies communicate on the floor?
LW: Gray is an incredible player. She is an amazing player and knows how to reward you for running the floor. At the same time, she knows she’s a force on the court. It feels good to play with a player who’s that type of leader.
SLAM: Why No. 1? Any significance behind the number?
LW: I always wanted No. 1. I wanted it even when I played soccer; I just wanted to be the best at everything.
SLAM: Wow that’s dope. Many great basketball players started out playing soccer, it’s great for your footwork and stamina. When did you start?
LW: It was my first sport I played. I started when I was like 8.
SLAM: What is one word to describe Duke Basketball?
LW: Exciting. We have so much more that we can show and we have a lot of talent on this team. We are really working to put it all together.
SLAM: Do you think this is the year you ladies step to the next level and make it to the Final Four?
LW: Yeah I think we are a work in progress but that is our main goal.
SLAM: Epiphanny Prince left school early for the WNBA. If the opportunity presented itself, would you leave school early for the league? Do you see that as something that could happen on a regular basis soon in women’s college basketball?
LW: I don’t think women’s players are going to be doing that on a regular like that soon. I don’t think we see it as such a rush as men do.
SLAM: Love and Basketball or He Got Game?
LW: I like Love and Basketball. It’s one of my favorites.