‘I just want to be better than them’
It was a conversation which stuck with Sydney Williams.
Williams was watching the Brookswood Bobcats senior girls basketball team practice and she asked coach Neil Brown if there was an open gym that particular night.
The gruff and demanding coach — known for being fairly direct — questioned her why.
“He turns and looks at me and said ‘why do you care? You don’t want to be a good player. Why do you want to go to the open gym?’” Williams recalled.
That brief encounter left a lasting impression.
“From that day on, it was like a kick in the butt and I wanted to prove him wrong,” she said.
“When I get into the weight room, I always think there are so many people who work so much harder. I just try to be the best I can be.”
A few years later, and Brown is signing the praises of the graduating senior who is off to Thompson Rivers in Kamloops on scholarship next season.
“Syd Williams has been the heart and soul of our team,” Brown said last month, following Brookswood’s 59-49 loss to the South Kamloops Titans in the championship finals of the B.C. AAA girls basketball tournament.
“She is just such a hard worker. If some of the kids just worked half as hard as she does, we might have won (the championship).”
He spoke about the hustle and determination Williams displayed on the basketball court, diving for loose balls and jumping over people for rebounds.
Her play earned Williams both player of the game honours for the championship final and a first-team all-star selection.
“At school, in the weight room, she has a work ethic I have never seen,” Brown went on. “She works so hard, it is incredible.
“I have been involved with basketball for nearly 50 years (and) I have never seen a kid work so hard. It is non-stop; it is incredible.”
Willliams has no problem putting in the necessary work.
“When I am in the weight room, I want to be sweating and out of breath or else, I don’t feel like I have had a good workout,” she said.
“There is no point going in there if you are not going to work hard.
“I want to be able to to jump higher than my opponent, be able to reach for a ball and grab and beat them down the court. I just want to be better than them.”
It is this work ethic which attracted Thompson Rivers WolfPack coach Scott Reeves — a former Brookswood coach — to offer Williams a scholarship.
“She is the type of character person we recruit here,” he said. “She is going to work hard … and give everything she has got.
“(And) she is a real good team player.”
Reeves anticipates Williams — who turns 18 later this month (April 28) will switch from the point to shooting guard in Kamloops.
“She is a great athlete and can put good pressure on the ball and likes to play at an uptempo style, which is what we like to do,” he said.
“I think she can definitely contribute right away.”
The always-athletic Williams played with the Fraser Valley Volleyball Club until about the ninth grade when she saw more of a future in hoops.
It was around that time she began working with assistant coach Chris Veale and focusing strictly on the hardwood. Soon after, Williams made a provincial basketball team and she knew she had picked the right sport.
Williams had contemplated attending a smaller school in Oregon, but instead chose Kamloops, citing that she loved the area, its proximity to home, the coach and her future teammates.
She plans on studying to become either a physical education teacher or perhaps a police officer. Coaching is also likely in Williams’ future as she said she would love to come back to Brookswood and take over the program down the road.
And while her coaching style may differ than her high school coach, Williams has enjoyed playing for Brown, and would want to carry over certain parts of his coaching style.
“A lot of people can disagree with how (Neil) Brown coaches but I love the way he coaches,” she said.
“The yelling, it helps me; he pushes you to a certain point because he wants you to be the best you can be.
Williams has also been chosen to play in the B.C. high school all-star game at the Langley Events Centre on Sunday (April 21). The game features some of the top graduating seniors.
It tips off at 2 p.m.