Danni Williams got her first college letter as an eighth-grader from the Merchant Marines School, and was offered a full scholarship from the University of New Mexico before she’d played one
varsity minute for Clovis High School.
As the U.S. Postal Service could verify, the recruiting effort of Williams has only intensified.
Williams, entering her senior year at Clovis High School, is No. 42 overall and No. 12 among guards in ESPN’s ranking of the Class of 2015.
New Mexico’s offer made after Williams’ eighth-grade year still stands, and it’s officially joined by offers from 33 other Division-I schools.
But that list is limited to schools that believe they have a shot at signing Williams, the reigning two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in New Mexico.
Her goal is to make a verbal commitment by July 1. Her father, Regan Williams, handles most of the recruiting details.
While acknowledging that some of the desires contradict each other, and that all things are negotiable, these are Williams’ top factors for picking a school:
• A program with winning tradition
• A school where she will have the opportunity to play as a freshman
• A school that is close to home
• A school with warm weather
• Lineage of creating basketball coaches. Williams wants to coach as a career.
Williams could be tempted to brave the cold if national power UConn throws out an offer. Colorado is a tough sell, but it doesn’t just come down to weather.
“She said she can’t bring herself to wear black and gold (like Hobbs),” Regan said, shaking his head.
There are three types of visits during the process.
This is when a member of the basketball program visits the recruit’s home. Schools: Texas A&M, Kansas, Baylor, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Kentucky, University of New Mexico, Washington, Nebraska.
The player, often joined by family members, is given a tour of the university and facilities. A recruit can take unlimited unofficial visits, but is on the hook for all expenses. The Williams family has tried to schedule these visits around vacations. Schools: Kansas, Baylor, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, University of New Mexico, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Colorado.
Williams made her first visit this weekend to Texas A&M. A player can take up to five official visits. The school pays for all travel and accomodations, though the family declined car service from Clovis to the Lubbock Airport.
What’s the rush?
Why does Williams want to have a decision by the end of the month? It’s a two-part answer.
The first reason is the simple notion of eliminating distractions during senior year. Of Clovis’ 30 games last year, Division-I coaches were at 20.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Regan said.
Pressure would only intensify with Williams not committed anywhere. Also, July 1 is the first date faculty members and coaches are permitted to call prospects.
Another reason, Regan said, is that committing creates an insurance policy of sorts. If Williams accepts an offer and gets injured this summer, the school will honor the scholarship while she rehabs. The agreement is conditional, though. If Williams was to get into criminal trouble, any offer would likely be pulled.
- 4: Two-time winners of the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Mexico — Williams (2013, 2014), Brio Rode (Rio Rancho 2002, 2004), Lisa Escobedo (Eldorado, 1992, 1993) and Jill Shaver (Eldorado, 1989, 1990)
- 22: Points Williams needs to pass Antiesha Brown and become Clovis’ all-time leading scorer
- 87: Wins for Clovis since Williams’ freshman year, against seven losses
- 42: Williams’ career high, notched Jan. 24 versus Trinity Christian
- 721: Williams’ single-season scoring record, breaking the record of 631 she set as a sophomore
You’ve got mail, and mail, and mail …
Williams receives anywhere from five to 40 pieces of mail in a day. The family keeps all of the letters in plastic containers slightly smaller than a shoebox. When they run out of boxes, the mail is emptied into a larger plastic bin.
Some family favorites included 10 separately-sent flyers from Tennessee that made a poster of Williams when pieced together, and a blank piece of paper that revealed a Kentucky logo after the family followed instructions to place it in an oven for three minutes at 350º.
On request from the CNJ, the family gave staff a few days with a random box of letters. It included 186 pieces of correspondence from 30 Division-I schools.
Here are some of our favorite finds:
- A flyer that noted the school’s position, academically, as “one of the finest university’s in the world.” We’ll save the school the embarrassment of identification.
- “Tech is a place for you to thrive and leave a legacy. It is a place that will be successful. It is home! Guns up! Coach Whitaker.” — Candi Whitaker, Texas Tech head coach, in a note inviting her to TTU’s Fearless 50 camp.
- “Both of our seasons are over now. It’s hard to explain that hollow feeling when the business just comes to an abrupt end … My house resembles an obstacle course from neglecting it those past weeks … Anyway, proud of our 26-7 overall record and Big Ten Tourney (championship).” — Sunny Smallwood, Nebraska associate head coach. Smallwood has since left for a similar position at Boise State, her alma mater.
- Valentine’s Day notes from many schools. One includes a Louisville Cardinal logo inside a heart that says, “Be Ours,” and is signed by the coaching staff. A note from Texas Tech has candy hearts around football coach Kliff Kingsbury and a note that the school has Candi, referring to women’s coach Candi Whitaker.
- “Congratulations! We’re excited for you … being named Gatorade Player of the Year in New Mexico … I know you’d trade it fo the state title, sorry. You’ll get the state title in 2015! #BBN” — Jeff House, Kentucky assistant coach
- “We want you to be the leader in our program, so just say the word!” — Mahogany Green-Eddie, Kansas assistant coach
- “There is not a day that goes by that we do not think about Danni Williams and your impact on this Cowgirl program. We believe in you as a person and as a basketball player. Continue to push yourself every day.” — Bill Annan, Oklahoma State associate head coach
- “Are you excited about the playoffs? We need you to keep winning so we can come see you in Albuquerque.” — Darius Taylor, South Carolina assistant coach
- A flyer congratulating Williams on her Gatorade award, signed by Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer and three assistants.
- “We have a roster full of great young talent. The future is bright at UDUB, come run with us.” — Fred Castro, Washington assistant coach
- “We’ve only attempted 230 3’s on the year! You probably shoot that many in practice!” — Amy Wright, Texas A&M assistant coach
- “The Bow is always ready. It never fails to give a consistent response. ‘Be the Bow.’ Even as you train for summer … ‘Be the Bow.’ Always be consistent and always be ready.” — Yvonne Sanchez, UNM head coach
- The box wasn’t entirely recruiting letters, as other mail found its way into the collection. Also included were flyers about admission information from schools any high schooler would receive, three notes from local fans encouraging Williams, a local letter with a mix CD of encouragement … and an offer from a cable television provider to bundle services.
— Compiled by staff writer Kevin Wilson