AIA365 Staff Insiders
Don KetchumStaff Writer, AIA365.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Williams twins double trouble for St. Mary's hoops foesNov 20, 2012
By Don Ketchum
Looking at each other is like looking in a mirror for Danielle and Dominique Williams. It has been that way since, well, forever.
That is particularly true on the basketball floor, where the identical twins helped lead Phoenix St. Mary’s to an Arizona state Division I championship last season with a 30-0 record along with a No. 1 national ranking by some media outlets.
And now they are seniors, ready to see if they can come up with a repeat performance.
About the only way to tell the difference between the 5-foot-9 players is that Danielle wears No. 3 and has a wisp of hair in back that serves as a small ponytail, and Dominique wears No. 4 and has two knots of hair in back.
Otherwise, it’s déjà vu all over again.
They can play defense, rebound, run, distribute the ball and now are shooting the ball better than ever before, according to Lady Knights coach Curtis Ekmark. Their shooting improvement is expected to make up for the loss of Shilpa Tummala to graduation. Tummala, The Arizona Republic’s Big School Player of the Year, now is at Harvard.
Danielle and Dominique are two of six St. Mary’s players who have signed or committed to play in college at the Division I level.
Danielle recently signed with Michigan and Dominique with UCLA. Chantel Osahor has signed with Washington, Brandee Walton with New Mexico State and Chloe Johnson with San Diego State. Ekmark’s daughter, Courtney, a junior, already has committed to the University of Connecticut.
Curtis Ekmark said the Williams twins “came to St. Mary’s with a tremendous passion. Since the day they walked on campus, they have played with an intensity that few players have been able to match.
“And their basketball IQ is now at a college level. They understand the game like nobody else.’’
St. Mary’s begins the 2012-13 season on Wednesday night (Nov. 21) at Phoenix Carl Hayden. After that, the Lady Knights expect to leave most, if not all, both good and not-so-good teams, in their wake. They play in a tournament at Page late next week against some of the top Native American teams in the state and in the days leading up to Christmas will return to the Nike Tournament of Champions, which they won last year.
As if they didn’t have enough to do, the twins also are involved in student government, Danielle as the student-body president and Dominique as vice-president.
“Going in, you have to understand that these jobs carry a lot of responsibility,’’ Danielle said. “You have to learn to delegate some of the responsibility, but you also have to realize that if it doesn’t get done, it’s all on you. You have to make sure stuff gets done on time.
“At times, it can get overwhelming, but you have to decide what’s important to you. You have to realize that education comes first. Our parents and coaches have always emphasized that. You also have to maintain your energy, eat right, don’t get sick and try to get enough sleep.’’
But there will be no sleeping on the court.
“Last year, we had a good team. It was special. This year, we don’t want to settle for anything less,’’ Dominique said.
The twins complement each other on the floor at the same time, but sometimes work separately when one takes a breather. And sometimes they play against each other.
“I love her competitiveness,’’ Dominique said of Danielle. “On the floor, she will say things to me to motivate me, that sometimes get me irritated. My teammates do it sometimes, too. But I know they’re doing it out of love.’’
Dominique agreed that she and her sister have improved their shooting. But she said she needs to improve in all areas of her game before stepping up to the collegiate level.
“By no means am I a complete player yet,’’ she said. “I am a high school player now and there are a lot of things I am good at. But in college, everyone can do those kinds of things, so you have to improve as much as you can. I am not there yet.’’
Danielle also said she and Dominique have improved their shooting touch as well as in their overall awareness and the decision-making process.
Danielle’s intensity level seemed to pick up when she talked about her defense.
“I like to defend,’’ she said. “I like to get up in people’s face, the point guards, ruin their offense where they can’t get the ball in to anybody. I want it to be game-changing.’’
Ekmark said the twins are very similar defensively.
“They can play against any position on the floor, 1 through 5. They are by far the best defensive players in the state,’’ he said.
He is happy that he will be able to coach them this last year but at the same time is a bit sad he will be losing them. The twins had an older sister who played basketball at Phoenix Xavier Prep and an older brother who played basketball at St. Mary’s.
“They twins are both great fits for their respective (college) teams,’’ he said. “They are both great in academics and those schools have great academics. The girls have the whole package.’’
Many schools recruited the Williams girls together, such as Arizona State, Boston College, Colorado and many others.
“They could have gone together, but at some point, you have to make your own mark in the world,’’ he said. “I think this will work out for them. They won’t have to worry about not getting playing time (in favor of the other).’’
Dominique said the UCLA coaching staff is relatively new, that the program has great potential.
“They always talk about John Wooden (legendary men’s coach) and what he used to do, you know, trying to achieve that type of excellence,’’ she said. “I liked their coaching staff. I liked their campus. Every day, you seem to find something new and cool to do.’’
Being apart from each other will be difficult, she added, “but I think it will be a great experience for both of us, both on and off the court. We can still talk to each other. That’s the great thing about all of the new technology, like Skype.’’
Either way, Danielle said, “College would be a new beginning for us. This (end of high school) would be a good time to make the change. We will be able to better show our own abilities. I know Dominique will do great things at UCLA.
“Playing together in college was a big topic. But we were allowed to decide for ourselves, and if we would have stayed together, it would have been fine. I liked the people at Michigan. They play a similar style that we’ve played here at St. Mary’s. I’ve met a lot of their girls, and they are awesome.’’
So are the St. Mary’s girls.
“You don’t really realize until you’re in the middle of it – that it is now bittersweet,’’ Danielle said. “This is the last time playing with all of these girls. It’s like it was last year, when coach said all of the teams are going to try to take their best shot against us.
“We know what it takes, but we need to work harder and smarter than ever before, have great practices every day. We don’t want to slow down.’’