It's a golden summer -- with no slumber -- for No. 1 prospect Christyn Williams
When Christyn Williams won a bronze medal with Team USA at the FIBA U17 world championships in Spain last summer, she had an immediate reaction.
"Bronze medal?" she said. "Eww."
This past Sunday -- fittingly on the long Fourth of July weekend -- Williams updated her medal collection, winning gold as part of the USA Basketball Women's 3x3 U18 World Cup team that competed in Chengdu, China.
Williams, a 5-foot-11 guard from Central Arkansas Christian (Little Rock), is the No. 1 player in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2018 class. Her teammates in China were 6-2 wing Aquira DeCosta, 6-3 post Janelle Bailey and 5-9 guard Destiny Littleton.
Bailey, who will be a freshman at the University of North Carolina this fall, tied for the tournament's scoring honors with 40 points. The undeclared DeCosta scored 36 points and was named MVP. Littleton, a freshman this fall at Texas, scored 32 points. And Williams, who sprained her left ankle in practice one day before the tournament started, chipped in 22 points.
The Americans went 7-0, topping the previously unbeaten Czech Republic 21-14 for the gold medal.
"Gold looks so much better," Williams said from her home in Little Rock. "I'm looking at it right now. I will take gold over bronze any day.
"After we won, they played our national anthem, they put the gold medals around our necks, and they had gold confetti."
Williams said the USA coach did a great job even though it was her first time running a club. You might have heard of her -- Kara Lawson, who won a WNBA title in 2005 and an Olympic gold medal in 2008 before heading to ESPN as a basketball analyst.
"I would never have known it was her first time coaching if she hadn't told us," Williams said. "She's a great mentor. She's done a lot of the things I want to do -- Olympics, WNBA, coaching, sports broadcasting."
In 3x3 basketball, coaches do all their work before and after games. During the games themselves, coaches sit in the stands, and players are left on their own.
"Your basketball IQ has no choice but to expand," the 17-year-old Williams said. "We have to depend on our own choices. We learned plays in practice, and then we went out and did it on the court."
Williams said the most difficult part of her experience in China was the travel.
After winning, she took a 14-hour flight from Shanghai to San Francisco. That was followed by a five-hour flight to Houston and a two-hour trek to Little Rock.
She got home at 9 p.m. Monday and slept until 1 p.m. Tuesday, a much-needed respite for an athlete with a relentless work ethic.
Come Friday, though, Williams -- whose ankle is still swollen -- will be on the move again, flying to Colorado for USA training camp. Then it's off to Udine, Italy to compete in 5-on-5 basketball at the U19 World Cup. It's a 16-team event that will be held July 22-30.
Williams returns home on July 31 and starts her senior year on Aug. 9.
"I like to stay busy," she said.
Williams will remain just as occupied in September when she plans to make five official visits to scout colleges.
She has six finalists, which, in alphabetical order, are: Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Texas and UCLA. Texas was a late addition to her list because there are seven incumbent players on the Longhorns' 2017 roster with whom she has played somewhere along the line, including Littleton. The only schools she has yet to tour on unofficial visits are Notre Dame and UCLA, and she seems determined to visit them in September.
Ultimately, though, hard choices will have to be made -- not just in terms of college visits, but also with regard to her final choice of school.
"It's only stressful if you let it be," she said.
Williams, who carries a 3.6 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society, comes from a distinguished family. The youngest of six children, she has two uncles who served in the U.S. Army, one who served in the U.S. Air Force and one who served in the U.S. National Guard.
Athleticism runs in her family, too. Her cousin, Wallace Spearmon, competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics as a track sprinter and won two NCAA outdoor championships. Additionally, Williams has a cousin who played softball at Texas A&M, and another who played pro basketball in Europe.
Williams, who is ambidextrous, began playing basketball at age 3. As a freshman in high school, she scored 36 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in her first varsity game. She went on to average 28.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 7.0 steals that season, making first-team all-state.
Williams has been named the Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year the past two years. As a sophomore, she had three games in which she scored 40-plus points. She averaged 29.3 points and 11.0 rebounds on the year and led her school to the state final. This past season, she averaged 26.6 points as her team finished 29-5, reaching the state quarterfinals.
"It's hard to believe because she's already so good, but she gets a little better every year," said her high school coach, Steve Quattlebaum.
"Just when you think there's nothing more she can do, her passing gets even better, her 3-point shooting is better. It's kind of unimaginable, but I expect her to be even better this season."
Kate Hensle, who just started coaching Williams in March with the Cy Fair Elite AAU program, was immediately impressed.
"After about an hour during her first practice with us, I texted my husband and said, 'This could be the best guard I've ever coached,' " Hensle said. "And that's saying something.
"Of course she works hard. But you can't teach some of the things she can do, such as her instincts in transition, when to pass, when to shoot, when to attack."
Hensle said the best is yet to come for Williams.
"She's one of the strongest kids I've ever coached," Hensle said. "Yet, when we passed a weight room [recently], I asked her, 'Christyn, do you want to get a workout in before we leave [on an AAU trip]?' "She said, 'Coach, I've never lifted weights in my life.'
"I couldn't believe it ... she has natural gifts."