CCS Junior of the Year
OLIVIA WILLIAMS, ARCHBISHOP MITTY
We will never know if Olivia Williams and her Archbishop Mitty teammates could have beaten La Jolla Country Day in the CIF Open Division title game and reversed one of three losses in what was still a magnificent 26-3 season. That’s because the coronavirus deprived both teams of that opportunity as well as every other team that qualified for the CIF state championships.
What the pandemic cannot steal from Williams was a great season that is being rewarded by Prep2Prep with her being named the 2019-2020 Central Coast Section Junior of the Year.
“That’s crazy. Oh my gosh. Thank you so much. I’m so excited and so honored,” was Williams’ initial response to be told she was the award winner.
“To be named as junior of the year is such a honor,” continued Williams. “I am truly blessed to have been given this award and it is such an amazing feeling. All praise goes to God along with all those who have helped me become the player I am today. I also would like to thank Coach (Sue) Phillips and all the coaching staff at Mitty for mentoring me the last two years. It’s so important to have a coach that truly believes in you.”
Williams now adds an individual section honor to previously being named All West Catholic Athletic League and Bay Area News Group First Team.
Williams, a 6-1 wing that can shoot the three-ball and pretty much play any position on the court, transferred from Pinewood after her freshman year, and she had a good season on a team with last year’s All Everything and current Stanford freshman Haley Jones, plus other established players including current junior Hunter Hernandez. However, this year Phillips had little choice but to believe in Olivia after Hernandez went down with a knee injury last summer and fellow junior star Marley Langi was slowed by an Achilles strain.
“We needed Olivia to cut it loose anytime she was open from the perimeter,” Phillips remarked. “She had the presence of mind to take and make the big shot and. Olivia needed to be shot ready on every catch looking to score, and she made some crucial baskets for us at critical junctures in big games.”
Phillips knew what she wanted from Williams and made it clear, and Olivia knew what her role was with her basketball and leadership skills and she embraced both. With Mitty shorthanded, other than senior star Ashley Hiraki, Williams was the player with the most experience on the court.
“Hunter and Marley are definitely a big part of the team and I feel as a whole we knew we all had to step it up,” Williams said. “Everyone knew what their role was and how we needed to perform and that helped us have the great season we ended up having.”
“On the court my role was to use my all-around offensive skills with shooting being one of them,” continued Williams. “But another part of my role was leadership. Our team is young and I feel by learning to use my voice to help out where I could with encouragement and pointing things out I saw really helped my game progress throughout the season.”
Despite not being openly loud and vocal Phillips agreed Williams was a leader.
“Olivia would lead by example and provide her teammates with words of encouragement and appreciation,” Phillips said.
After all was said and done Williams greatly exceeded last year’s numbers. She got edged out by Hiraki (12.4 ppg) as the Monarchs scoring leader, but on a team that was loaded even shorthanded and had seven players average over six points a game, Williams averaged an even 12.0 points a game. She tied with Hiraki with 56 three-pointers but her 40-percent from beyond the arc was tops on the team as was her 80-precent free-throw shooting. Her 4.6 rebounds a game was fourth on the Monarchs and she also had 1.8 steals and 1.1 assists per game.
“I have always been very confident in my game and what I could do to help my team,” Williams said. “When I transferred from Pinewood I knew I would be learning a new system and playing with different players. I learned so much last year and was blessed to play with the number one player in the country. This year I was able to put all the things I learned into play and just enjoy all aspects of the game.”
Early in the season Williams had 19 point (five three-pointers) in an 80-30 victory over CIF Northern Regional Division II, plus 21 points and nine rebounds and was 5-of-8 on three-pointers in a 74-37 blowout of P2P CCS No. 3 Menlo.
The next week in the top division at the Nike TOC Williams made some clutch baskets in a 58-57 win over Florida top 10 Miami Country Day and a 71-70 overtime victory over Nevada No. 1 Centennial-Las Vegas, and finished with 18 points (four three-pointers) and 13 points (three three-pointers), respectively. La Jolla Country Day was determined to stop her in their 62-54 semifinal loss, but Williams bounced back, and despite a 58-54 loss in the third-place game to national top 20 and Maryland No. 3 Riverdale Baptist, she had a team-high 15 points.
Williams was blistering in a West Coast Jamboree Platinum Division opening round 75-28 blowout of Cal-Hi Sports No. 19 Clovis North-Fresno and went for a season-high 22 points on 6-of-8 from outside the arc.
Like all the top players on Mitty, Williams’ minutes were limited in most games after the tournaments and during a 17-game winning streak to end the season that included an 11-0 mark in the West Catholic Athletic League, or her numbers could have been even higher.
Even though the Monarchs weren’t pushed in the playoffs Williams has a team-high 20 points (5-of-6 on three-pointers) in a CCS Open Division 92-35 victory over cross-town P2P CCS No. 8 Lynbrook, and in a 76-44 title-game victory over Pinewood, Williams dropped in a game-high 17 points against her former team on 8-of-10 shooting from the field.
When asked what she felt were some of her best attributes, Williams didn’t mention shooting or even basketball. “Some of my best attributes are that I am a genuine person and I have a stellar sense of humor.”
Phillips saw the improvements that Williams made from last year.
“Her biggest improvements from last year were Olivia was shot ready on the catch, and her shooting percentage from beyond the arc went way up,” Phillips said. “She also got more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball.”
What about areas of improvement? Both Phillips and Williams were brief in that area.
“We’d like to see Olivia assert herself more on the boards,” remarked Phillip.
“Areas I need to improve on are my strength and trunk mobility,” was Williams’ answer.
Basketball has been a big part of the Williams family going back to her paternal grandfather, the late Ron “Fritz” Williams, one of the first African American players at West Virginia who was drafted in 1968 by the old San Francisco Warriors. After his playing career ended in 1975 stints with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, he settled on the Peninsula where his son and Olivia’s father, Eric Williams, was a star at San Mateo High before playing at Iona. Eric Williams is in the San Mateo Athletic Hall of Fame.
Her mother, Kate Moriarty-Williams, started playing basketball in her native New Zealand and then at South San Francisco where according to Olivia “her name is on the wall.” With New Zealand part of the picture, not surprisingly there has to be some rugby in the mix, and Olivia’s maternal great grandfather, Jack Sullivan, played and coached for the world famous New Zealand All Blacks.
Speaking of New Zealand, Olivia has dual citizenship and has been representing New Zealand in international competition. Most recently she was a member of the U17 team that won a Silver Medal in the 2019 FIBA Women’s U17 Oceana tournament in New Caledonia. She has also been selected to represent New Zealand at the World Cup in August.
Under the current circumstances of being stuck at home due to the pandemic, the short-term goals for Williams would seem to make sense.
“A short term goal in the uncertain times for my team and I is to stay connected and stay in shape,” Williams said.
Williams recently committed to UC Irvine and that certainly plays into her long-term goals.
“I committed to UC Irvine early because of the connection I built with the coaching staff as well as UCI being such a fantastic school. I felt such an amazing vibe from everyone there,” remarked Williams, who says her favorite subject is social justice and she plans on majoring in African American studies. “Besides making an impact at UCI another goal of mine would be to represent New Zealand in the Olympics.”
Heading off to college in Orange County for college is still a year off and Phillips us happy about that.
“With Olivia’s length and skill set she can make an immediate impact at the next level,” said Phillips, who according to the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book enters next season as the No. 4 all-time winningest coach with 718 victories. “Fortunately for us at Mitty, we have another year to reap the benefits of her talent and leadership, and we will continue to assists in her development.
The question about the game that wasn’t still lingers. With Hernandez back from the knee injury for 10 games before the season was cancelled, and the Achilles strain of Langi improved, could Mitty have reversed the 8-point loss to La Jolla Country Day at the Nike TOC and beaten them for the CIF Open Division state championship?
“It was extremely disappointing because we really felt that we could get the win and that was the hardest part,” Williams reflected. “We knew their style of play and who did what from playing them in Arizona.”
“We were prepared and beyond ready,” Williams continued. “But the game was cancelled for the general safety of everyone, but it was still a very hard day for everyone when the news came out. The game was truly going to be a fantastic game.”
The pandemic may have wiped out the CIF state championships but what the virus can’t take away is the fantastic season Williams and her Mitty teammates produced.
For her efforts this season we are pleased to recognize Olivia Williams of Archbishop Mitty as the Prep2Prep Central Coast Section Junior of the Year.
Other players considered for this award include Pinewood’s Annika Decker, Menlo’s Avery Lee and Lynbrook’s Lydian Li.