NORFOLK — The
Center Elizabeth Williams' family in
"I think it's pretty cool," Williams said Saturday. "It's exciting, definitely, for all the people that have supported me through my high school days, and them being here. But at the same time, it's a business trip. We're here to take care of business and win these next two games."
Second-seeded Duke (32-2) faces No. 6 seed Nebraska (25-8) in Sunday's second regional semifinal at the Constant Center. Top-seeded and second-ranked
Williams must play a key role if the
The 6-foot-3 sophomore is Duke's leading scorer (15.5 ppg) and No. 2 rebounder (7.3). More significantly, she anchors a defense that's second in
The two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year blocked 97 shots this season. In just two years, she already is third on the Blue Devils' career list for blocks (213), behind Chante Black (261) and Alison Bales (434).
Williams also is a Dean's List student on a pre-med track at Duke.
"She's an amazing person and comes from an amazing family," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
While recruiting Williams and getting to know her, McCallie dove into one of her high school reading assignments: Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar."
"I don't want to read that book again," McCallie said. "It was a terrible book."
Indeed, Plath's semi-autobiographical novel of disillusionment, depression and suicide couldn't be further from Williams' outlook and upbringing.
"She comes from a very happy family," McCallie said. "They are probably the happiest family I know, in terms of just the way they live their lives and how they support their children.
"It's been a very special thing with her. Thank God she's a sophomore and we can continue to develop and have a great time together."
Williams, who had a 4.19 grade-point average in high school in the International Baccalaureate program, has taken to college life, in general, and to Duke, specifically.
"It's been everything and more," Williams said. "The biggest adjustment, basketball-wise, is speed and strength. I think you see a lot of quicker players and, of course, a lot of stronger players. Outside the court, there's just a lot more to do. You'll have your media (obligations), film (study), weights and all those things, and then of course the schoolwork."
Williams appeared to be a can't-miss prospect from an early age. Her Princess Anne teams won two state championships. She was a two-time high school All-American and one of the top two recruits in her class. She was a key player on USA Basketball's under-17 and under-19 world champions.
Though Williams isn't as dominant in college as she was in high school, she has adjusted quite nicely. She was the consensus national Freshman of the Year and a third-team All-American last season.
"What I love about her, coaching her, is that she's a very honorable player," McCallie said. "She works very, very hard. Sometimes puts too much pressure on herself. A little bit of a perfectionist. I kind of joke with her a little bit about that. It's not about perfection, it's about giving your all and cutting loose, as I would like to say, kind of cutting loose. I don't think she's cut loose yet. I hope she does."
Williams smiled at the notion of cutting loose.
"I tend to be a perfectionist sometimes," she admitted. "So it's just kind of relaxing on the court and play my game. Being able to trust my teammates. I mean, they have so much faith in me. Just not trying too hard and just playing."
If Williams "just plays" Duke can make a fourth consecutive Elite Eight, and perhaps its first Final Four since 2006.