Jacqua Williams just trying to live her dream
Former Rainier Beach and Georgia Tech star trying out with Storm
Seattle Times staff reporter
Jacqua WilliamsPosition. Guard
College: Georgia Tech
Acquired: Signed to Storm training camp roster in April 2012.
Three-points: Part of Georgia Tech's ACC champion 400-meter relay team. ... Graduated with degree in public policy. ... Graduate of Rainier Beach High School.
This time of year, everyone has a story.
Jacqua Williams' is a tale of a gifted athlete finally pursuing her heart's desire. You might remember the name Williams herself linked with Shelia Lambert and Joyce Walker as a soon-to-be local hoops legend.
"I want to be the best player to ever come out of Washington, the next Sheila Lambert, if not better," Williams boasted in 2004 as a basketball and track star at Rainier Beach High. Nearly 10 years later, though, she's still in search of that pinnacle.
Georgia Tech's record holder in career steals (366), the two-sport star trained to make USA's 2012 Olympic team in the long jump and 200 meters. When that failed in the spring of 2011, she bounced around coaching youngsters in her native Seattle or in Atlanta, where the 5-foot-7 guard made her name with the Yellow Jackets.
She says an epiphany on her 25th birthday in January landed her in the Storm's training camp, which opened Sunday. The first step was a pro combine after about a year away from sports.
About 67 people attended the combine organized by Merit Management, which represents Williams. To date, 39 players have signed with a WNBA team. Williams caught the eye of Seattle's coaching staff, co-owner Ginny Gilder and Karen Bryant, the president and CEO of the franchise.
"Then (2004), I was speaking it, and now I'm giving myself the chance to live it," Williams said of her lofty goals. "It's like I'm scratching the surface all over again. I feel like I left the game, but the game never left me."
Williams is getting an extended look because returning reserve point guard Allie Quigley and team captain Sue Bird aren't at camp yet.
Storm coach Brian Agler expects Quigley to complete her physical Monday and join practice this week. He also plans to play veteran Katie Smith at the point to help run his system. USC star Ashley Corral (Prairie View) also is running the point at camp.
Williams, who played one season in Sweden after graduating from college in 2009, was pulled aside a few times Sunday to correct errors. She let loose a yell as a practice player picked off her dribble when she was trying to set up the offense, a mistake she expected considering she's playing against veterans who've played overseas or experienced other WNBA camps.
"She's a good athlete and she competed hard," Agler said of Williams. "Just like all of the rookies and new people — they're excited and they're nervous and they're anxious and sometimes they try to do things they can't do just because they want to please and try to make an impression. But I really like her athleticism and strength."
Agler said he showed patience and went at a slower pace Sunday, but that will change quickly.
He expects Bird to report this weekend along with backup candidate Silvia Dominguez and maybe Tanisha Wright, whose team plays Monday in the Israeli finals.
They'll give a smoother flow to camp to help move evaluations along as all the hopefuls look to land a slot on the final 11-player roster.
The veteran backcourt also will help the Storm expedite preparations for the season.
Next week Seattle plays scrimmages against China, Canada and Japan in conjunction with USA Basketball training at KeyArena. The Storm's exhibition opener is May 11 and the season opener is May 18 against Los Angeles at KeyArena.
"It's going to hit us here," said Agler of the season. "We've got to get a lot of things in here our first week. We've got to bring a lot of the people that we know are going to be on our roster back into the fold when they get here. And we've got to get into some competition and get ready for that first game of the season. It's going to be tough."
Williams said she's ready for whatever camp brings. And this time, her tale isn't going to end until she lands a WNBA contract.
"I took a break from sports to gather my mind and it was a humbling experience going from being an athlete to working," she said. "But regardless of what you go through, you never give up on your dream. I told myself basketball is what I want and I won't be denied."
• Storm free-agent pickup Tina Thompson did not practice Sunday. She's expected to complete her physical Monday and participate this week.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.