Another 'Elite' prospect commits to A&M
In recruiting, many schools develop "pipelines" to certain areas or states. Every so often a college will get an influx of players from one place, and sometimes, from a single club team.
Courtney Williams, the 6-foot-1 combo guard from Houston who plays with Houston Elite, is just another in a long line of players from Howard Randle's program to commit to Texas A&M.
Williams, ranked No. 20 in the ESPNU HoopGurlz Terrific 25, is the youngest of several Houston Elite players to sign, transfer or verbally commit to Gary Blair's Aggies. During the 2012-'13 season, she will join former teammates Karla Gilbert, the No. 9 prospect in the 2010 class who signed a national letter of intent (NLI) last November, Rachel Mitchell, the No. 16 player in the 2011 class who has verbally committed, and recent South Carolina transfer Kelsey Bone, who was the No. 2 prospect in the 2009 class.
Williams wasn't pushed to commit to the Aggies by Randle, but growing up with the Elite stars and building friendships, some starting in the fourth grade, had a lot to do with her comfort committing early.
"We're very close," Williams said of her relationship with all three players. "Me and Rachel have been playing together since she was in the fifth grade and I was in the fourth and playing AAU together when I was in the fifth."
Though Gilbert and Mitchell are very close with Williams, it was Bone who pushed things over the top.
"Kelsey Bone coming back sealed the deal," Randle said. "The first thing Kelsey said [to Williams] was 'I want you playing with me.' "
"It made me feel special," Williams said, "because she's an All-American."
The decision was not solely based on her relationships with her former and future teammates. Williams, who wants to pursue a career in sports broadcasting or coaching at the college level, seriously considered other factors in order to feel comfortable with the decision.
"They play the way I play," Williams said of the Aggies. "I like the coaching staff and defense is what makes them win and I like defense."
Though it is still extremely early in the process for a 2012 prospect, Williams was also looking at Baylor, Stanford, Tennessee and Texas. Being close to home was a factor, which left her with the three in-state options which met her criteria.
So while the pundits will joke that the Houston Elite club team is nothing more than Texas A&M South -- much the way people labeled Ray Mayes' Finest Basketball Club in Southern California a breeding ground for UCLA prospects earlier in the decade -- don't lose sight of the impact of her commitment.
The Aggies potentially could have the most imposing frontcourt in the country in years to come, and Williams, who can play either guard position, will complement the posts as well as 2011 point guard commit Alexia Standish, who plays for the Cy-Fair Shock. Standish is the No. 24 prospect in the 2011 class and is a floor general and sharpshooter, while Williams is a power guard who does a lot of her damage getting to the basket off the dribble and posting up smaller guards.
Williams is motivated, in part by not being invited back by USA Basketball for the U17 trials after being invited last year for the U16's, to expand her game and prove she is every bit as good as her ranking.
"She's developed her outside game, it's much better," Randle said of Williams' improvement since last summer. "She's always been a kid that can get to the basket."
With both of her parents having played basketball in their youth, Williams gets a lot of support at home, and with the pressure of recruiting out of the way, she is looking forward to developing into the player Bone and her former teammates believe she can be.
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Chris Hansen is the National Director of Prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college-basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a Communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org