With a new-look roster around her, sophomore McKayla Williams found an opportunity to carve a role for herself. A top 100 player in her high school class, she played limited minutes in an abbreviated season, averaging 4 minutes in 20 games played. With Abby O’Connor and Cierra Walker earning starting roles and minutes, Williams needed to find a way to find the court off of the bench with an elevated skillset: her defense.
The lockdown perimeter defender averaged 12.8 minutes this year and played in all 34 games. In those minutes she averaged 1.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, .8 assists and .3 steals. When breaking down her advance stats is where you’re able to see how she expanded her role beyond minutes logged and what potential was unearthed this season.
The 6-foot-1wing proved to be one of the best perimeter and lane defending guards not just on the team but in the conference. She had a defensive rating of 83.5 which put her in the 88th percentile of players according to Her Hoop Stats. The only players with a lower totaled rating on the team were frontcourt players Yvonne Ejim and Anamaria Virjoghe.
The leader in defensive rating for a guard is noteworthy considering the success the Bulldogs had in limiting perimeter scoring. Opponents shot 27.6% from outside, good for the 26th best perimeter defense in the country. Williams’ length as a super athletic guard that can defend three positions made her the ultimate utility defender for Lisa Fortier’s system.
Williams’ steal rate of 3% of opponents’ possessions puts her in the 91st-percentile of the country for the category. Her raw number of 25 steals this season in just 12.8 minutes per game has her easily in the 75th-percentile. She had a 1.1 defensive wins share on the season, higher than 75% of the rest of the country.
The Los Angeles native’s defense was always what jumped out on the page throughout her recruitment and to see her live up to those lofty expectations is terrific. Where her game can expand in addition to her role in increased minutes is on the offensive end.
Perhaps it’s a bit due to the slower pace that Fortier likes to play (Gonzaga’s 66.2 possessions per 40 minutes ranked 324 out of 356 teams) and Williams’ offense seemingly excelling in the fastbreak, but the offensive end is where her game could be reshaped heading into next season.
Her usage rate of 12.6% was the lowest of significant minute earners this season. She had an effective field goal shooting of 35.9%, which will need to be addressed for her to grow her game and allow for her to take on larger minutes with the losses of O’Connor and Walker. It is worth noting that her numbers both from the field and the perimeter improved between her first and second seasons.
Additionally, Williams showcased her ability as a secondary offense initiator as a solid decision-making passer. If her shooting improves to a level that defenses need to contest her, Williams should be able to improve her assist to turnover figures in a larger role. The work this summer will dictate a lot of things for the talented defensive player and could help leverage Gonzaga to remain one of the best defensive teams in the country.