When Danni Williams graduated in May, many of the people who crossed the stage with her were preparing for the next phases of their lives. They were going to move around, get jobs, and most of them were done with school. However, Williams was returning to school, even if it was a different one.
As a sharp-shooting graduate transfer from Texas A&M, Williams had the option between Texas and perennial Final Four participant University of Connecticut. While both programs offered winning situations, Texas got the leg up — to the surprise of many.
“Ultimately, I just wanted to be closer to my parents,” Williams said. “They spent three years at (Texas) A&M going to every single home game, and I didn’t want (in) my fourth year — my last year — for them not to be able to travel to all of the games.”
For her parents, College Station is already an eight-hour, 500-mile trek from their home in Clovis, New Mexico, a small town near the border of New Mexico and Texas. Despite the distance, her parents traveled to all 52 of her home games.
“Her freshman year was challenging,” said Regan Williams, Danni’s father. “She wasn’t playing as much as she had hoped. Her mother and I just wanted her to know that, ‘Whether you play or not, we’ll be there for you.”
The tight-knit family environment surrounding Williams is something she has felt since childhood, when her family would drive across the country racing dirt bikes. Her older brothers rode before she did, but she was always around it.
“My wife worked 12 hours, so I took her in a baby carrier,” Regan said.
Once she was old enough, the racing bug hit her as well.
“Her brothers got bikes for Christmas,” Regan said. “We couldn’t leave her out.”
Danni excelled in motocross. According to her father, she won two national championships when she was 9 and 11 years old.
Despite the success, basketball took precedence for one simple reason.
“There just aren’t women making a living racing motorcycles,” Regan said. “We realized she could get her college paid for playing basketball.”
The decision to stick with basketball led to a three-year career at Texas A&M, one that included three appearances in the NCAA tournament and the single-season record for three-pointers made in a season.
Now at Texas, Williams finds herself on a retooled Longhorn roster. It has five freshman added to the roster trying to replace three seniors, two of which were drafted to the WNBA.
“With the loss of Brooke (McCarty) and Ariel (Atkins) from last year, I think that it was timely for her to come and be a part of our program,” head coach Karen Aston said.
While the season hasn’t officially started, Texas is setting its sights on a Big 12 championship. With the addition of Williams, the perennial championship aspirations have been spread from the team to Williams.
“I’ll be lying if I said I didn’t want to win the Big 12,” Williams said. “That’s what we work for every day.”
The Big 12 championship is on her mind, especially with Texas entering the season at No. 11, behind Baylor. For her, all her energy will be focused on helping Texas claim its first conference title since 2004, considering it’s her last run in the NCAA. However, she made it apparent that her basketball career doesn’t end after this season.
“If I’m able to play, God willing, (I will) play in the WNBA,” Williams said. “If not, I would definitely try to go play overseas somewhere. I want to continue playing basketball, wherever that takes me.”