The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Kevin Wilson

Long shot

Clovis grad Williams concedes slim odds of WNBA roster spot


April 10, 2019

University of Texas

Danni Williams aims to pursue a professional basketball career, though she acknowledges she may have to look overseas as getting drafted into the WNBA and getting a roster spot are daunting tasks.

Danni Williams has a history of beating the odds. Before she put on a Clovis jersey, nobody had won New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year three times. And only a handful of Wildcats have ever found their way to a Division I college basketball roster.

The Women's National Basketball Association, however, might be the longest odds Clovis' all-time leading career scorer has ever faced. Its draft is tonight, and it's difficult to get drafted into, let alone find a spot on a WNBA team.

"It's less than 1 percent," Williams said Monday after returning home from the Final Four, where she participated in the college 3-point contest. "It's probably the hardest league, men or women, to get drafted into. There are only 12 teams. You've got players like Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, who have been in the league since before I was in high school. You can get drafted and you can be cut within two weeks."

The draft will be aired on ESPN networks, but split among rounds. The first round will air at 5 p.m. (MDT) on ESPN2, and an hour later ESPNU will pick up coverage with the second and third rounds. The draft will also stream live on the ESPN app.

Williams, a 2015 Clovis High graduate, is not among the 36 players listed in ESPN's WNBA mock draft - updated Monday to reflect Sabrina Ionescu's decision to return to Oregon for her senior season.

However, the league thought enough of her chances to invite The News to a national conference call with WNBA coaches and analysts.

"She's a shooter, a smooth basketball player," New York Liberty coach Katie Smith said of the University of Texas and former Texas A&M guard. "She may get a chance late in the second or third round, but it is difficult to make a roster."

Williams, regarded as one of college basketball's top 3-point shooters, could prove a valuable commodity in a WNBA game that, like nearly every other level of basketball, has increased the priority of the 3-pointer. She left Texas A&M fifth all-time in made 3-pointers at the school (152), and shot 67-of-176 last season at Texas.

But the path to the 12-team league is so difficult that Las Vegas Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said, "you may see some first-rounders not make it."

Laimbeer and the Aces hold only the No. 1 pick, and are expected to take Louisville guard Asia Durr with Ionescu out of the field.

Kara Lawson, a former WNBA star and current analyst for ESPN, didn't specifically mention Williams but echoed the sentiment that basketball's post-college path for women is one of great resistance.

"Outside of the top spots, this is the reality of the WNBA," Lawson said. "There are not a lot of spots. It is so hard. If you think about it just from a numbers perspective, there are 12 teams. Then you look at the fact there are players ranging from their first year in the league to - what year is Sue Bird in (18th)? Then you talk about somebody who has to make the jump from college to pro. You have to go against somebody who's got experience professionally, with the limited timeframe you have to prove it. You don't get two months. You get two weeks, maybe three weeks.

"It's a pressure-packed environment in practice and preseason games. You have to learn a new system. There are also new rules. You have to process everything in a training camp scenario with the best players you've ever played against in your life."

When told of Lawson's comment, Williams said, "that's exactly right," and recalled only eight or nine of last year's drafted players found a WNBA roster spot. And she's prepared if she's not one of those eight or nine this year.

"If the WNBA doesn't work out, I hope to play overseas," Williams said. "That would be in the fall, probably October or November. Your agent helps get you set up. I've reached out to a lot of my former teammates at Texas A&M. I've gotten their take on it. It's pretty difficult. You're in a different country. The food, the language is unfamiliar. But you also get to play the game you love while traveling the world."

She would be the second Clovis native to make a WNBA roster. Cisti Greenwalt, a 2001 Clovis High grad, played five games with the Seattle Storm in the 2006 season.

Williams transferred to Texas from Texas A&M after three years, and was able to do so without sitting out a year because she graduated before transferring. Academically, she's halfway to a master's degree in sports management. She chose Texas in no small part because the way it offered the program online would let her continue studies while she pursued a pro career.

"Hopefully I can finish by December or next May," Williams said, "but it depends on basketball and where it takes me. I definitely plan to finish it."


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