Christyn Williams was taking it all in. The sand, the sea, the sun, the breeze. More than a thousand miles and a world away from her home in Little Rock, Arkansas, Santa Monica was scenic and serene. The morning bike ride organized by UCLA was a perfect way to begin the first official visit of her high school career.
But don't think for a second that there haven't been a few bumps on the recruiting road for the No. 1 prospect in the nation.
Another biker swerved in front of Cheryl Williams, Christyn's mom, and caused a nasty spill. Cheryl, unwilling to interrupt her daughter's trip, waited until she got back to Arkansas to go to the hospital. She had suffered a cracked right elbow in the fall.
"She toughed it out," Christyn said. "We had to tell UCLA not to cancel future bike rides because it wasn't their fault. We were having a lot of fun until she fell."
Now the pressing question is who the ambidextrous, two-time Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year and three-time USA Basketball medalist (gold, silver and bronze) will fall for on the recruiting trail. The 5-foot-11 shooting guard at Central Arkansas Christian, who averaged 26.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 2.0 assists and 1.3 blocks last season, has come to crunch time. Undeclared, her five finalists are UCLA, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Connecticut. The early signing period opens Nov. 8.
After her UCLA trip, Williams and her parents waited (and healed) for two weeks and then visited South Carolina on the weekend of Sept 22. Last weekend, they visited Tennessee, where they attended the Volunteers' 41-0 football loss to Georgia. Unfortunately, their flight out of Arkansas was delayed and Williams had to skip her planned trip to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville.
So how is the stretch run going?
"I swear, colleges be coming up with some creative recruiting tactics," Williams tweeted on Sept. 17.
When asked to elaborate, Williams laughed and declined.
She did, however, share details on how South Carolina and Texas were added to her list of finalists after they had been taken off.
Texas coaches, it seems, canceled a home visit the day before they were supposed to arrive. But the Longhorns players provided a strong pull.
"I thought that was so unprofessional," Williams said. "But then after playing with Joyner Holmes and Alecia Sutton on Team USA U19 in July, I decided to add Texas back. I loved playing with [Holmes and Sutton], and Coach Karen [Aston] apologized. It was just a big misunderstanding."
Her reasons for removing South Carolina were not as specific. But there were a couple of reasons -- a player and a coach -- that the Gamecocks found their way back on.
"After playing with Tyasha Harris, it kind of changed my mind a little bit," she said.
Williams said her relationship with South Carolina assistant Jolette Law, who joined the Gamecocks' staff from Tennessee in June, also made her reconsider.
"Coach Law had been recruiting me at Tennessee," Williams said. "I love her. We have a close relationship. She basically just continued recruiting me but at South Carolina instead of Tennessee. ... I gave South Carolina the benefit of the doubt and gave them a home visit. I ended up liking them enough to take an official."
Told that her recruitment sounded complicated, Williams said: "Very complicated."
Williams' parents, determined to let their daughter make her own decision, have not weighed in too heavily, at least not yet.
"I will say, as of right now, it's a fair ballgame." Christyn Williams
"All the schools are trying to make their sales pitch," said Sherman Williams, her father. "This is a big decision for a 17-year-old. We're trying to let her make it, but maybe we should help her."
Sherman and Cheryl have given their opinions when asked, but Christyn has given no indication that she will ask her parents which school they would pick.
So, for now at least, it's Christyn's choice.
"Recruiting is tiresome," Cheryl said. "All the coaches are saying basically the same things. We've gotten to know these coaches over the years, and they're good people. But she can only go to one school."
This weekend she'll be going on her visit to Texas. Connecticut, the following weekend, is the final stop. As it stands now, Texas has a loaded five-player class highlighted by Charli Collier, Sedona Prince and Joanne Allen-Taylor. Connecticut, which lost Collier to Texas last month, is looking for its first commit.
Williams, though, insists she feels "no pressure," and she will be ready to pick a final two about one week after the Connecticut visit. Her final destination will be announced Nov. 10 (11:15 a.m. CST) in her school's auditorium.
Williams shut down questions about her final two stops.
"That's classified information," she said when asked about the Longhorns and Huskies. "I will say, as of right now, it's a fair ballgame."