Katie McWilliams one cool cat
She always calls "shotgun" but almost never cracks a smile during her basketball games.
Katie McWilliams, who often amuses her friends by making cat noises, admits she can be kind of "weird," sometimes singing or humming to herself -- not loudly -- "just in my own space."
McWilliams, also known as "Katers" or "Katie Mac," is an undeclared 6-foot-2 combo guard from South Salem (Oregon) and the latest in a long line of stars hailing from the Beaver State. She is the No. 38 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2015 class.
"We tease her about her long legs," South Salem wing Jordan Woodvine said. "She has to get the aisle seat when she flies because her legs are so long.
"But she's also our team leader. No matter the situation, I feel like she will get us out of it. She's one of those leaders you look up to automatically because of her performance and her attitude. She's inspirational."
That's high praise coming from a teammate, but Woodvine is not alone in hyping McWilliams. UCLA, which just pulled in the No. 1 signing class in the nation for the Class of 2014, has offered her a scholarship, and McWilliams is planning to take an official visit there later this month.
In addition, McWilliams has taken unofficial visits to Stanford, Oregon State, Oregon, Washington State, Washington and Gonzaga. Also in the picture is Arizona State.
Schools such as Duke, Nebraska and Louisville are interested, too, but McWilliams said she is not strongly considering them.
"I've always been a family person," she said. "So I don't think I want to go too far away.
"I grew up rooting for Oregon State, but I could see myself playing anywhere in the Pac-12."
McWilliams, who has a 3.89 GPA, isn't sure yet what she will study, but she knows she loves the game of basketball.
After all, her father, Nick, is her high school coach, and she has been around the game virtually her whole life.
As a freshman, she averaged 10.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.1 steals. She averaged 12.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals as a sophomore and 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.4 steals as a junior.
She'll enter her senior year as a three-time All-Central Valley first-team player and the reigning Central Valley Player of the Year.
"Katie has tremendous athleticism and versatility," said Gary Lavender, who coaches her in AAU ball for Oregon Elite. "She plays all five spots for us, and she jumps center.
"She has a great knowledge of the game. If anything, she is too unselfish. I'm trying to instill in her a scorer's mentality. She has the talent to be a prolific scorer in college."
McWilliams led South Salem to fourth place at state in Class 6A last season, the school's best finish since 1984. She was named to the all-Class 6A tournament second team.
South Salem, which has not won a state title since 1975, returns its top three players from last season in McWilliams, Woodvine, a 5-10 rising junior who is projected to be mid-major recruit, and Evina Westbrook, a 5-10 rising sophomore wing with major-conference potential.
"With those three kids, we have a chance to be in top three or four in state again," said Nick McWilliams, who will enter his eighth season as South Salem's coach this fall. "We [graduated] some role players who will not be easy to replace. But we can go a long way with this group."
Nick McWilliams, who is 6-3 and played NAIA basketball at Warner Pacific College in Portland, has been coaching for 35 years. He was a boys' coach for most of that time but made the transition when he saw the talent Katie possessed.
Katie is the youngest of three sisters -- Allie, 23, is a graduate student studying psychology at the University of Oregon, and Lindsay, 20, is a junior majoring in journalism, also at Oregon. But Katie is the only one of the three who truly inherited her father's love for basketball.
"Her sisters played basketball through grade school," Nick said. "But Katie has been a gym rat since she was 5 years old."
Her education in the game escalated four years ago, when she joined Oregon Elite.
"I could tell right away that she had a lot of talent, but she was a very quiet kid, and she didn't understand how good she was," Lavender said. "Most kids in Oregon live in a small world and don't play outside their region.
"In the summer of her freshman year, when she got to play travel ball, it was an eye-opening experience for her. She got to see players like Diamond DeShields and learned how much talent is out there."
McWilliams admits she was "wowed" by some of that talent.
"Seeing them made me think about how I needed to get better," she said.
That perspective has obviously been beneficial.
"I think it motivated her," Lavender said. "She kind of woke up and figured it out. And now she's developed into one of the best guards on the West Coast."
McWilliams' development continues a recent trend of star players coming out of Oregon. The list includes the Louisville duo of Shoni Schimmel and her sister Jude, both from Mission, Ore.; and Stanford's Kailee Johnson (Portland). Tennessee will have three Oregon stars on its roster this fall: sophomores Jordan Reynolds (Portland) and Mercedes Russell (Springfield) and freshman Jaime Nared (Portland).
"I'm a big believer in Oregon basketball," Lavender said. "They don't get a lot of recognition nationally, but the players here are coachable. They love the game, and they compete, and I think that describes Katie perfectly."