Video: Girls Basketball Player of the YearChristyn Williams joins distinguished list of past winners.
It's 70 miles south on I-25 from Denver to Colorado Springs. On a good day, the drive takes a little over an hour. On a bad day … well, there's a few miles that lock up like Christyn Williams
making an opposing point guard disappear.
But what is the connection between the 2017-18 MaxPreps National Player of the Year and an obscure stretch of Colorado freeway?
Back in 2015, the 5-foot-11 Williams was an unknown from a small school in Arkansas, just one of the more than 125 girls who had signed up to try out for the USA Basketball U-16 team. Some are invited and get to stay at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The rest catch as catch can when it comes to finding a place to sleep.
"My uncle lives in Denver, so that's where I stayed," Williams said. "It was a long drive every morning and every night."
But it didn't take long for Williams to move from unknown to contender. After the horde of players had been narrowed down to the final 20 or so, Williams was still there – and her confidence was growing.
"Maybe I am really good," she thought at the time.
After all, there she was with the best of the best teenage talent in America and more than holding her own. But in the end, she didn't make the team, though she was named an alternate.
"I was devastated," Williams said. "I'm a very competitive person and I hate losing, and being an alternate was like being runner-up."
Being runner-up isn't good enough for Williams.
That's why finally winning the 4A championship at Central Arkansas Christian (North Little Rock, Ark.)
after three unsuccessful tries meant so much to her.
"That's the best accomplishment," Williams said. "It took a while, and that makes it much better."
It didn't take four years for Williams to make a USA Basketball roster as that accomplishment came in 2016. She not only started all seven games for the U-17 bronze medalist, but she played more minutes than anyone, including those who had been chosen ahead of her the year before.
And it only took 40 minutes for Williams to be named MVP of the McDonald's All-American Game on March 26 as she scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Next up is UConn, where Williams may have to wait a while to take her accustomed spot with the ball in her hands, as only two seniors graduate from a 36-1 team. Regardless of the traffic jam of talent in Storrs, Williams will soon find her way to a home in yet another star-studded starting lineup.
Williams is the fifth UConn signee to earn MaxPreps National Player of the Year honors and second in a row, joining Maya Moore (2007), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (2011), Breanna Stewart (2012) and Megan Walker (2017).Past MaxPreps National Players of the Year
2017 — Megan Walker, Monacan (Richmond, Va.)
2016 — Sabrina Ionescu, Miramonte (Orinda, Calif.)
2015 — Ali Patberg, Columbus North (Columbus, Ind.)
2014 — A'ja Wilson, Heathwood Hall Episcopal (Columbia, S.C.)
2013 — Diamond DeShields, Norcross (Ga.)
2012 — Breanna Stewart, Cicero-North Syracuse (Cicero, N.Y.)
2011 — Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
2010 — Chiney Ogwumike, Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas)
2009 — Skylar Diggins, South Bend Washington (Ind.)
2008 — Nneka Ogwumike, Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas)
2007 — Maya Moore, Collins Hill (Suwanee, Ga.)
2006 — Jacki Gemelos, St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.)