KANSAS CITY, Mo.-- For the second time this season the NAIA has named Amber Williams National Player of the Week after the senior center led No. 12 Azusa Pacific to wins over Point Loma Nazarene and San Diego Christian.
Williams averaged 25.5 points and 16.5 rebounds last week, recording her 12th, and fifth consecutive double-double. In the 59-42 win against Point Loma Nazarene the center pulled down 19 rebounds and scored over half of the Cougars’ points (30). She followed up that performance with a 21-point, 14-rebound effort in Azusa Pacific’s 94-60 rout of San Diego Christian, and is currently on pace to break the program’s 30-year old single-season record for rebounding average of 12.9, held by Kathy Wilson (1982).
“I think what’s really elevated her game is her desire to be consistent every night...to make sure she gives her best effort,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman. “She’s done a really good job of not letting people take away from her game. You can concentrate on keeping her from scoring, but she gets rebounds and puts it back in. I don’t remember having a dominant center who can score and rebound like this.”
Williams, who has been a mainstay, although off the bench, over the last three years talked about being in the spotlight for the first time.
“It’s exciting when I get calls and texts congratulating me. I’m thrilled, but I know I still have a lot of things to work on,” she said. “I think as a team we’re getting it. It’s all about teamwork and chemistry. I honestly think we can be unstoppable, especially with Briana Hall at point guard.”
Williams now leads the GSAC in rebounding average, scoring average, and ranks No. 4 in blocked shots (1.22 per game). Her 20.2 points per game is the fourth best clip in the NAIA, while her 13.4 rebounding average is the second best nationally.
“She elevated her game up another level or two. She’s improved a ton and a lot of it is her drive to want to finish strong,” said Hardeman. “She’s seen areas in her game where she can get better at and she works with Wade Kirchmeyer and Dan Ploog to get better at it.”
And her work has shown up on the stat sheet. Williams has raised her free throw shooting percentage from .613 as a junior to .701 this year. Her double-double average, if it holds, will be the first time since 1990 that an Azusa Pacific women’s basketball player finished the season with 10+ points and 10+ rebounds per game. The last person to do it was Amy Walter, the Cougars’ single-season record holder for scoring average (22.3; 1989).
“We’ve expected some big things from her. She was sharing time last year, but this year knowing that it’s all [her], she’s really embraced that and the team has embraced her,” said Hardeman.
When Williams received her first NAIA Player of the Week honor earlier this month it was the first time that a Cougar earned the distinction since Alex Moore-Porter was recognized after averaging 26.5 points and 11.5 rebounds over a two-win stretch against California Baptist and The Master’s in February, 2009.
Williams will have a chance to make a run for her third honor as the Cougars wrap up the opening half of the GSAC schedule with a home game against The Master’s at 5:30 p.m.