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Former Mustang helps LSU win women's basketball national title

LaDazhia Williams had 20 points and five rebounds in the Tigers' 102-85 championship win over the University of Iowa.

LaDazhia Williams said the draw of playing for Coach Kim Mulkey was a factor in her decision to transfer to LSU.
LaDazhia Williams said the draw of playing for Coach Kim Mulkey was a factor in her decision to transfer to LSU.
Courtesy photo
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In November 2016, LaDazhia Williams was asked about her shoes

Back then, Williams was a senior on the Lakewood Ranch High girls basketball team. She had scholarship offers to just about every college in the country, and she had even more shoes than that.

She said going to the mall and picking out a fresh pair of shoes to add to her collection, which she started in eighth grade, was her favorite thing on weekends. A pair of white and gold Jordans were her favorite. She couldn't talk about her shoes without smiling and her mother, Chanel Griffin, joked that she had far too many. 

On April 2, Williams' shoes were a vibrant apple green — a pair of Kobe 6 Grinches.

The shoes were a gift from Vanessa Bryant, the wife of the late Kobe Bryant and a Louisiana State University sports fan, to everyone on LSU's roster. Williams, a senior, put the gift to good use. She scored 20 points, grabbed five rebounds and snagged three steals, helping her Tigers capture a 102-85 win over the University of Iowa in the NCAA Tournament championship game in Dallas. 

Her ring collection now stands at one. 

LaDazhia Williams was rated a five-star player by ESPN coming out of Lakewood Ranch High in 2017.
Courtesy photo

Her basketball journey, to this point, has been remarkable. In 2016, she was committed to the University of South Carolina and eventually played for the Gamecocks for two seasons but sparingly saw the floor.

At 6-foot-4, Williams had all the physical tools a team could want, but she needed to refine her offensive game and develop more post moves. At times, she even struggled to score in high school.

After two seasons at South Carolina, Williams transferred to the University of Missouri prior to the 2020-2021 season. In two seasons with Missouri, Williams played more, starting 27 of the 48 games there.

She was more effective on offense, too, averaging 12.1 points per game her first season and 9.1 points per game the second. But she was hampered by nagging injuries and despite her personal growth as a player, she never completely meshed with Missouri's guard-heavy system. So before her final season of college basketball — granted because of the COVID-affected 2019-2020 season — she entered the transfer portal again. 

In January, Williams told the East County Observer she chose to go to LSU because of what Coach Kim Mulkey had proven she could do for talented post players, which was to unlock their potential. Mulkey won three national titles in 21 seasons at Baylor University before taking the LSU job in 2021, and has coached bigs like Brittney Griner, Lauren Cox and Kalani Brown, all of whom were named All-Americans and play or have played professionally.

It remains to be seen whether Williams' career will follow that path, but consider her potential unlocked. Williams started all 34 games she played this season and averaged 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Don't let the points stat fool you because Williams would have averaged more on most teams, but on LSU, she was usually the third offensive option, as sophomore forward Angel Reese averaged 23.0 points per game and senior guard Alexis Morris averaged 15.4 points per game. 

Against Iowa in the title game, it was evident how much Williams' offensive tools and basketball IQ have improved. She made several great moves that led to baskets. She either would pull up and hit a jump against Iowa after getting the ball in the paint, or she would take a step, spin and drive for an easy layup.

She also worked several key give-and-gos with Morris. Williams proved there is no longer a  stiffness in her game. Iowa had no answer for her. 

LaDazhia Williams had 20 points and five rebounds in the NCAA Tournament championship game against Iowa.
Courtesy photo

Dating back to her high school days, Williams always knew how to play air-tight defense and disrupt shots while playing with composure. That never changed. It's why Mulkey and LSU trusted her so much in the national championship game as Williams played 37 of the game's 40 minutes, the most on the team, despite playing much of the fourth quarter with four fouls.

In addition to her three steals, Williams and Reese — who was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player — combined to limit Iowa senior forward Monika Czinano (17.2 points per game) to 13 points. 

One thing that hasn't changed is that Williams is quiet, even though her LSU teammates' personalities are loud. As a result, it might have seemed she was a bit forgotten on the Tigers' talented championship team when it came to recognition. Reese and Morris took cellphone selfies on the trophy presentation stage and gave colorful TV interviews to ESPN, with Reese even digging into why she decided to give the "you can't see me" hand gesture to Iowa star guard Caitlin Clark at the end of the game. Meanwhile, despite scoring more points than Reese (15), Williams wasn't even part of the Tigers' traditional postgame press conference. 

That was probably OK with her. After the trophy presentation, as everyone else went wild, Williams could be seen sitting next to Reese, staring into the crowd as confetti fell around her. She was not concerned with anything other than the present moment and she was too busy soaking in something she'll never forget. 

Before the game, Williams was the first starting player on either team announced to the crowd during introductions, accompanied by a shoutout to her hometown of Bradenton. For those in the community who have followed her career since her Mustangs days, watching Williams succeed on the sport's biggest stage was special. She continues to represent East County well.

And those green Kobe 6 Grinches will now hold a special place in her ever-growing shoe collection. 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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