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Hawks' Williams goes from hoops rags to riches

February 23, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

Sade Williams knew there had to be a better way.

She played basketball and played hard.

She loved the game.

But for some reason, the game didn't love her back.

Williams was a product of some lean years at South Hagerstown. In her recent high school days, she was the focal point for the Rebels. But South basketball is more a study in perseverance than a story of success.

Surviving was considered winning.

It all changed for Williams this season. Her persona and outlook have changed since she graduated from South and moved on to play for the Hagerstown Community College women's basketball team.

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"A new door has opened and shows me there is more for me to get," Williams said. "It has boosted my self-esteem a lot. In high school, we didn't look forward to winning. I think in my high school career we won like six games."

Suddenly, the freshman saw how the other half lives.

The Hawks are enjoying one of their best season in recent years.

HCC has exceeded 20 wins, finished second in the Maryland JuCo Tournament and is the No. 3 seed heading into this weekend's Region XX Tournament at Prince George's Community College. The Hawks have also handed coach Marlys Palmer a milestone victory.

It's all new and exciting to Williams.

It started as HCC won its first 12 games to start this season.

"It was crazy," she said. "I had tears in my eyes. I was grateful ... I wouldn't ask for anything else after coming from a team that won one game as a senior and that was a one-point win over Clear Spring."

Williams began to feel a bit of entitlement. She was finally feeling some ownership in a team and its outcomes.

"Getting used to winning was kind of hard," Williams said. "I didn't know that (Palmer) was going for her 500th win this year. Then we go on to finish second in the JuCo tournament. I was happy to be part of something. A lot of people wish they could be in this situation."

Tough lessons

Basketball wasn't easy at South Hagerstown.

Williams was the Rebels' secret weapon that everyone knew about.

"When I was in high school, I was the go-to player," Williams said. "We moved from Montgomery County after ninth grade. From 10th through 12th grade, I was the scorer, the go-to player, the ball handler. I had a lot of pressure. I had to play every position."

With the pressure, Williams was saddled with the responsibility for much of South's fortunes.

"Teams wanted to shut me down," she said. "Everything was on me. They were playing box-and-1s and zones trying to stop me. When I was at South, everything depended on me. I would play 32 minutes. The pressure was on me, but I don't show it. If the coach yelled, let him yell. That's what he was supposed to do.

"I was out to play as hard as a I could. We were going to lose, but I was going to make it tough on the other team."

Williams said South's fortunes seemed to discourage players from coming out and kept scouts away from the Rebels' games. It was tough, but it will all work out in the end for the Rebels.

"I believe in myself," Williams said. "People can say what they want about South High, but I'm all for it. South is a good school. They will be good again some day, you watch. Don't go sleeping on them."

But it all will come after Williams' time.

Change of fortunes

HCC gave Williams more than just a chance to play basketball.

Palmer and assistant coach Bernie Semler recruited Williams heavily and when the time came, her choice was the Hawks. With that choice came less pressure and responsibility. She wasn't a full-time starter. Williams became a role player off the bench.

"I don't have to do it all here," Williams said. "Everyone here has something to do and we all have to do it so that we can win. At South, I played every position. Here, I only have to play one. I have a position here."

The whole experience has changed Williams.

"I think the word is 'demeanor,'" Palmer said. "It has changed the way she carries herself. Sade has tried hard to see herself as a winner at South. She tried to see that she has a future and could go somewhere with her talent. There is more pride. She is proud of this team and to be part of it."

It started immediately, especially when it came to game days.

"When I was in high school, my mom didn't come to many games," Williams said. "She knew we were going to lose. I understood. Then, when we played Montgomery-Rockville in our first game, my mom, sister and brother all came to the game. When we scored 100 points, it was big to see those three digits on the board. It was big to win. It was big to have them there."

Progress

Williams was right. There was a better way.

Playing is more fun now at HCC. Williams is finding out that basketball is a team game. And in a subtle way, the way she is being noticed by friends has changed.

"When I was at South, people used to say, 'I saw that you had a good game in the paper,'" she said. "Once we started winning, it was, 'I see you had a good game in the paper ... and you won the game.'"

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