How Sophomore Recruit Christyn Williams Set The Tone For Stardom

With eye-popping skills, Christyn Williams has drawn high praise from coaches across the country. John Leyba for ESPN

It's happened more than once: A big-time college coach has watched Christyn Williams play ferocious basketball, only to talk to her later and get a very different feeling.

"Some people call me a 'sweet beast,'" Williams said in her bubbly, high-pitched voice. "My teammates and coaches always joke with me and ask me not to talk on the court because they say I lose the intimidation factor."

Williams, who plays for Central Arkansas Christian School in North Little Rock, made first-team Class 4A all-state as a freshman and is the No. 3 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Terrific 25 for the 2018 class.

A 5-foot-10½, ambidextrous combo guard, Williams averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals last season and already has 17 college scholarship offers, including from Tennessee, Baylor, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Arkansas.

"She is like a shark on the court," said Lee Shannon, her club coach with the Arkansas Athletes Outreach Banshees. "She's a predator."

Kylee Coulter, Williams' high school teammate, agrees.

"When you see her play and see her body frame and then you hear her talk, you just say, 'Oh, that's not right,'" Coulter said. "Her voice should be deeper."

Williams, who at 15 is the youngest of six kids, has been playing basketball since age 3.

"I remember when I was 11 years old and playing basketball, and Christyn was 3," her sister Timia Watson said. "I was on the court working on my skills and drills, and there was Christyn trying to dribble two balls simultaneously and shooting on the 10-foot goal.

"She was just mimicking us bigger kids. I said to myself: 'She's going to be something.'"

Shannon, her AAU coach, said the first time he saw Williams she was a 5-foot-tall fourth-grader. Williams made a move that day that reminded Shannon of Michael Jordan.

"She went baseline, went up in the air, switched the ball from her right hand to her left hand because a girl who was 8 inches taller came over to block her shot," Shannon said, "and Christyn makes this little floater. I thought, 'Wow, this kid is a freak.'"

Williams has continued to impress and appears destined to be the first in her immediate family to play college ball.

She got her first scholarship offer -- from Arkansas -- three months before she entered ninth grade.

"At the time, I didn't even know what an offer was," Williams said. "I knew it was something good, but I didn't know the caliber of it until I told my mom."

Her high school coach, Steve Quattlebaum, said Williams could have been playing varsity since seventh grade if not for a state rule that prohibits students from playing varsity until they are freshmen.

But once she got to high school, she was an immediate star, scoring 36 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in her first game. The opposing coach told Quattlebaum it was probably the best game he has ever seen from a high school player.

Williams' school, Central Arkansas Christian, has a history of success, reaching the state playoffs 16 years in a row and winning three straight championships from 2005 to 2007.

Quattlebaum has had several stars in his 20 years as coach, including players who signed with Oklahoma State, Arkansas and Ole Miss.

Williams, though, is special.

"She will probably end up as the best player we've ever had," said Quattlebaum, whose team reached the state quarterfinals last year. "She will certainly be the most highly recruited."

Quattlebaum praised her ballhandling -- "You can't take the ball from her" -- and her shooting.

"She really improved her 3-pointers this spring," Quattlebaum said. "She puts up 400-500 shots a day, using our [automatic ball-return machine]. She wore that thing out."

Truth be told, the machine -- called "The Gun" -- already was 10 years old and on its last legs.

Last week, her school got a new machine, and Williams burned up Quattlebaum's phone with text messages, wanting to be the first player to try it out.

Williams, who has a 3.6 GPA and likes math, is interested in becoming an engineer or a pro basketball coach -- either NBA or WNBA -- after her playing days are done.

She suffered her first individual setback in May, when she failed to make the USA under-16 team, though she survived three cuts. She was chosen as one of four alternates, which was an honor, but not being on the actual team was a blow to her pride.

"No one had ever told me 'no,'" Williams said. "I had never been to a tryout and gotten cut before."

In Williams' defense, the invited players stay at the USA Basketball facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As a noninvited player, Williams had to find her own lodging and stayed with her uncle, who lives an hour-plus away in Denver.

Williams left her uncle's home every day at 6:30 a.m. for the practices, which went from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. She ate dinner in the car on the way back to Denver, took an ice bath every night and didn't get to bed before midnight.

"Next year, hopefully, I will be invited and it will be easier," Williams said. "I won't go in there blind, and I will know what they are looking for."

That hiccup aside, Williams appears to have great organizational skills and a strong mental approach.

She has a habit of putting her collection of about 30 pairs of sneakers back into their boxes after each wear and even puts the original wrapping paper back into the shoes as well.

She also sets her phone's alarm clock often, not just to wake up in the morning but also for appointments.

"If I have to call a college coach at a certain time," Williams said, "I will set my alarm."

As for her mental approach, Williams has a whiteboard in her room on which she writes down her goals.

Here is a sampling of what's on her board at the moment:

-- Win a state title.

-- Win MVP of the state finals.

-- Get invited to USA Basketball trials.

-- Make the USA Basketball U17 team.

-- Make sure I'm effective in each game and win a gold medal.

-- Get ranked in the top three in the nation for the class of 2018.

Next to that last entry, Williams put a checkmark because that goal was recently accomplished.

"She's the most driven player I've coached in 10 years," Shannon said. "After she got that offer from Baylor ... most kids would have gone out to celebrate at the Cheesecake Factory.

"But Christyn doesn't even post anything on Twitter. She just goes back to work."

Shannon said a lot of college coaches have told him that Williams reminds them of 5-foot-10 former Notre Dame star Jewell Loyd, who was the first overall pick in the 2015 WNBA draft.

"Christyn is a strong 'bully' guard who can score from anywhere," Shannon said. "She shoots lefty, but, technically, she is right-handed. She can handle with either hand.

"She is a willing passer. If you are open, she will give it to you and expect you to knock it down.

"Defensively, she wants to be coached. She will get mad at us as coaches if we are not telling her how to get better."