McDonald's All American selection no surprise to those around Madison Williams (except mom)
Madison Williams didn't think she would be invited to play in the McDonald's All American Games, but she watched Tuesday afternoon's roster unveiling on her computer just in case.
The 18-year-old senior at Trinity Valley (Fort Worth, Texas) was in study hall when she clicked WatchESPN. She read the first 11 names on the East roster, and -- as expected -- no Madison Williams.
Then, at the bottom, Williams saw a combination of letters that she -- in a state of shock -- recognized on some level.
"I told a friend of mine, 'Girl, look at this,'" Williams said. "'Is that my name?'"
Indeed, it was. Williams sprinted out of her classroom, screaming in excitement. She took off down the hallway and started bursting into every classroom that contained one of her teammates.
Her hands were shaking, and her knees were weak -- but her mouth was working just fine.
"Yo," she told each teammate she encountered, "I made the McDonald's All America Game!"
After five or 10 minutes of running around, an exhausted Williams called her mom, Sharla.
"My mom started crying," Williams said. "She said, 'Madi, are you sure?' She was as surprised as I was."
Perhaps the news shouldn't have come as such a shock. After all, Williams, a 5-foot-10 guard/forward who signed with Oklahoma, is known for her on-ball defense and her quick first step. She's fast and a strong leaper, and she's working on developing more confidence in her jumper.
This season, she's averaging 25 points, 15 rebounds and four steals. On Dec. 29, she scored 41 of her team's 49 points in a five-point win over Dawson (Pearland, Texas).
"If you've ever seen her play," said Charli Collier, a fellow McDonald's All American, "you know Madi's a beast."
Collier, a 6-foot-5 post player for Barbers Hill (Mont Belvieu, Texas) and Texas signee, is one of Williams' teammates on the Cy Fair Elite AAU team. But the stars faced off in a high school game last month, with Collier getting the victory and scoring a career-high 50 points.
Williams, who was double-teamed constantly, scored 30.
"She would just bulldoze over our guards," Collier said. "I don't know how many and-1s she had, but no one could stop her when she had a full head of steam."
Williams started out as a track sprinter and didn't even try basketball until fifth grade. She also dabbled in field hockey. When Williams was a seventh-grader at Trinity Valley -- a private, K-through-12 school -- her mom thought field hockey might be her daughter's ticket to college.
"Her mom was like, 'Do you think Madi can get a field hockey scholarship?'" said Trinity Valley coach Tawanna Flowers, who was an assistant back then. "I looked at her and said: 'She's going to get a basketball scholarship.' Her mom said, 'Do you think so?' I said, 'Yeah, I know so.'"
Flowers had observed something special in Williams, even at a young age.
"I saw a phenomenal athlete with a ridiculously high IQ," Flowers said. "In the seventh grade, she was making plays that kids on my varsity were not making.
"Oftentimes, I will say something to the team, and Madi will say, 'Coach, I already told them.'"
Williams, who received her first scholarship offer -- from Texas Tech -- when she was a freshman, hasn't always been such a terrific leader.
As a sophomore, she strongly considered transferring to the public school in her district, North Crowley in Fort Worth. Frustrated with a Trinity Valley team that had few other girls who played basketball year-round, Williams wanted out, and she and her mother came to Flowers with their concerns.
"I said, 'Wherever Madi goes, I will be one of her biggest fans,'" Flowers said. "But if she stays here, this environment will test her and allow her leadership skills to grow.
"Madi would've done a wonderful job at a public school. But here, she has no choice but to lead. It's been fun to watch her develop. Now she's clapping, trying to pull people along with her."
After her 41-point game, Williams was sitting in the back of the bus when she got up from her seat. She walked to the front, where her coaches were congregated, and initiated a conversation about how she could get more from her teammates.
Cy Fair Elite coach Earl Allen, who has coached 13 McDonald's All-Americans in the past four years, including Collier, Christyn Williams (no relation) and Sedona Prince this year, is not surprised by Williams' unselfishness.
"Madi is probably the most athletic kid we've had here in the past five years," Allen said. "But the biggest thing about her is that she's so team-oriented. She came to me once when other kids were complaining about playing time. She said, 'Coach, let them start. I just want to play. I don't have to start.'
"I told her that was not going to happen, but [her gesture] blew me away."
Williams, who averaged 12 points, six rebounds and five steals in 25 minutes per game last summer for Cy Fair, has never been about her numbers. That trait apparently denied her a shot at representing her country.
It was nearly two years ago when she went to Colorado to try out for the USA U-17 team. She was one of the 17 finalists but did not survive the final cut. In her exit interview, Williams said the USA coaches told her that she was the best defender on the roster but wasn't producing enough offense.
"She walked out of there in tears," Flowers said "She's one of the most unselfish players of her ability I've ever seen."
Williams' mom is a pastor and middle school assistant principal, and her father, DeMarcus, is vice president of marketing for an insurance firm by day and sings gospel music with his brother on their own record label by night. Williams, who wants to be an athletic trainer or perhaps a coach, had a sixth-grade hip-hop dance crew.
But these days, basketball takes up a large portion of her time, and she's looking forward to capping off her senior season on March 28 at the McDonald's game in Atlanta.
There's one matchup that she is looking forward to most.
"Christyn Williams," she said of the Connecticut recruit and star guard who is the top-ranked prospect in the nation for the 2018 class. "My plan is to be able to match up with her and shut her down."