By Derrick Mahone
Now that Briana Williams has her future all secured, the Henry County guard is focusing on the present.
In November, Williams signed a basketball scholarship with Mercer University. With her name on the dotted line, she can put her full attention into trying to help the Ladyhawks make another deep state playoff run.
"I wanted to come into the season just focused on the team," Williams said. "This season has been OK for me, but I know it could be better. I'm hoping to go out with a bang."
Henry County is in second place in Region 4-AA, and has a 7-3 overall record. Two of the team's losses have come against Class AAAA Dutchtown.
After a hot start for the season, Ladyhawks coach Carl Caputa said Williams has struggled some lately with being focused.
"She started off real strong, but last couple games, she definitely not as focused," Caputa said. "When she does focus, she is unstoppable."
Caputa used last season's playoff run as an example of how Williams can be explosive. In helping the Ladyhawks win three state playoff games last season, she averaged 25.6 points per game in wins over Dodge County, Albany and Greene County. Her signature game came in a 47-point performance against Dodge County in the first round of the playoffs, which included making 17 of 18 field goal shots.
"We knew she would be a a Div. I signee," Caputa said.
Although his teambeat the Ladyhawks Tuesday in a key region game, Northeast-Macon coach Alvin Copeland still remained impressed with Williams, who also considered signing with Prairie View A&M. Williams finished with a game-high 21 points, and played a huge role in the team overcoming a late eight-point deficit to only lose 43-41.
"I'm very impressed with her," said Copeland, who has been coaching for 46 years. "She is not only a good player, but you can tell she knows the game. She has the dangerous combination of being a good player, and very knowledgeable about the game. That is a dangerous combination. You have a lot of people that can play the game, but don't have that much knowledge about it."
Williams said she has played basketball eversince she could walk. Both her parents played in college.
" I really don't know what has happened, but I'm not as focused as I should be," Williams said.
A four-year starter, Williams had a breakout season last year as a junior in helping the team to the Class AA Final Four. She averaged 19.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game. After the season, she was named to the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association All-State team in addition to being named Southern Crescent player of the year.
Coming into the season, ESPN.com had her rated as the No. 78 best guard prospect in the country. She was also rated the fifth-best overall prospect in the state, according to the ESPN.com scouting service.
Although there is still a lot of games left in this season, Williams said she is excited and looking forward to the challenge of playing Div. I basketball next season at Mercer, a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
In addition to her strong performance on the court, Williams has been excellent student in the classroom. She made the honor role each school year.
"When I go to Mercer, I know I have to work two times as hard," Williams said. "This season has been a good lesson for me. Mercer is a local team with a good academic program. I feel I can come in and help them next season."