On Monday, the Associated Press released its annual All-America teams for women’s college basketball. Four UConn players received honors, including Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier both making the All-America First Team. While there was mostly celebration, there were also plenty of groans of disapproval from UConn supporters. Many wondered why junior Gabby Williams, who is having her best season to date, did not make the First Team. As further fuel to the fire, Williams was named to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association All-America Team on Wednesday. In this week’s Point/Counterpoint, Staff Writers Andrew Morrison and Josh Buser argue whether or not Williams deserves to be named a First Team All-American.
Andrew Morrison: Nearly every time Gabby Williams enters the game, she is simply the best athlete on the court. This is an impressive feat within itself, considering not only the talent of her own teammates, but the quality of opponents that the Huskies have faced this season. At 5-11, Williams is somewhat undersized at the forward position, but what she lacks in height, she more than makes up for in sheer athleticism. Williams’ quickness and ridiculous vertical allow her to out-rebound bigger opponents, and her 8.4 rebounds per game is second on the team. Her passing is exceptional, as she leads the Huskies in assists at over five per game. Most importantly, Williams is the defensive cornerstone of this year’s team. The American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Williams averages an absurd 2.7 steals per game to go along with 1.3 blocks. Her triple-double back in January, only the fifth in UConn history, proves that she is the do-it-all backbone of this year’s team, and is more than deserving of First Team honors.
Josh Buser: For Williams to be selected to the First Team, she would have had to replace one of the five outstanding players that made the cut. Excluding her UConn teammates Samuelson and Collier, who were both outstanding all season and are deserving of the honor, that leaves Washington senior Kelsey Plum, South Carolina junior A’ja Wilson and Maryland senior Brionna Jones. Plum recently became the NCAA’s all-time career leading scorer and averaged 31.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game this season. She received the most first place votes from the national media panel, rightfully atop the First Team. Wilson and Jones led their teams to respective 31-4 and 32-3 records, averaging 17.6 and 19.8 points per game. Jones ranked 10th in the country with 10.8 rebounds per game while Wilson ranked 14th in field goal percentage, at 59.2 percent. These stats are certainly First Team-worthy. Williams’ Huskies defeated both South Carolina and Maryland this season, and Gabby was a big reason why UConn prevailed over Wilson and the Gamecocks. However, Williams clearly had a much more talented supporting cast, so the ability for Wilson and Jones to lead their teams should put more weight into the First Team selection.
Morrison: Plum’s historic season is undoubtedly deserving of First Team honors, but I think the other two are debatable. As mentioned, we have the luxury of comparing Williams to Wilson and Jones directly, because UConn clashed with both South Carolina and Maryland during the regular season. Wilson was guarded by Williams for much of the night, and while she recorded a solid 17 points, she did it on 42 percent shooting and posted only five rebounds, both well-below her season averages. Williams, on the other hand, went off for a career-high 26 points with 14 rebounds and 4 steals, all of which were integral for the program’s 100th consecutive win. Against Jones’ Maryland, Williams was stellar once again, recording 16 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. She puts up her best stat lines in the most challenging games. That has been most obvious during this season’s NCAA tournament, where Gabby has shifted into a higher gear, averaging 21 points per game (on 64 percent shooting) to go along with five assists and eight rebounds. The AP poll does not include postseason play, but this proves, if it wasn’t clear already, how vital Williams is to the Huskies’ success.
Buser: Williams’ play was certainly a crucial part of the Huskies’ undefeated regular season. But the outstanding play of Samuelson, Collier and Nurse was just as important. With talented players around her, other teams can’t gameplan around Williams like they can around Wilson and Jones. As the stars of their respective teams, Wilson and Jones carry extra weight. For them to perform as well as they did this season while drawing double-teams and being the focus of every opposing coach should hold a lot of value when selecting the All-Americans. This shouldn’t downplay Williams’ credibility - she absolutely deserves her spot on the second team - but when it comes to decision time, factors like this definitely come into play. If Williams played for a school other than UConn, she may be forced into that star player role that carries the team on a nightly basis. It’s a harsh reality of the Huskies’ dominance, but I’m sure Williams is fine the undefeated regular season and Second Team selection.