Q&A: Courtney Williams on All-Star bid, finding a home with the Dream

Dream guard Courtney Williams (10) passes the ball during a game against the Dallas Wings, Thursday, May 27, 2021, in College Park, Ga. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Dream guard Courtney Williams (10) passes the ball during a game against the Dallas Wings, Thursday, May 27, 2021, in College Park, Ga. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

Courtney Williams had to let out a scream. She had done it. In her seventh season in the WNBA, the 27-year-old guard, who has been a long-time potent scorer, got her chance to be in the spotlight.

Williams, and her neon green-dyed hair, will head for the bright lights of Las Vegas as a WNBA All-Star participant July 14. For the one who always had worked in the background as a small-town kid from Charlton County and a mid-major star at South Florida, Williams had to let her parents know first — with an invite to join her, of course.

“I was geeked,” Williams said. “This is one of the highest accolades in the league.”

Williams has set the WNBA on fire with her shooting touch through the season’s first half. She opened the season with a 62% shooting clip from beyond the 3-point line after the first handful of games and remains on a stellar pace. Williams has found a niche in her second season with the Dream, as she has averaged 17.1 points and 3.8 assists per game.

She was selected for the All-Star honors Wednesday as the Dream’s lone participant. Fans, a panel of sportswriters and players voted on a group of 36 candidates for the 12-deep roster. The coaches then made the final decision as to who would represent the WNBA in the contest against the USA national team, also comprised of some of the league’s best players.

“I know this: If they played an All-Star game and Courtney wasn’t in it, they should’ve canceled it,” Dream interim coach Mike Petersen said. “She’s played great all year long, and it’s shocking to me that this is her first time. This is so well-deserved, and I am sure she will play well and represent us well. It’s hard to do this in this league.”

Williams has been a leader of the Dream’s fast-paced offense, but some of her teammates could’ve made the case to join her. Tiffany Hayes, who is out indefinitely with a torn MCL, leads the team in scoring with 17.6 points per game. Second-year guard Chennedy Carter sits at 16.1 points per game after a recent surge.

“I couldn’t vote for Tiffany Hayes, the No. 10 scorer in the league. We were not allowed to,” Las Vegas Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said June 30. “The social-media people picked who the coaches could vote for. They said, ‘That’s too bad, that’s what we’re going to give you.’ We know more about this league than any of the talking heads or the general public. It’s unfortunate. There are some players who aren’t selected and should be. Tiffany Hayes is the poster child for that one.”

For Williams, however, it’s a career moment. She spoke with the AJC about her honor and success in her second season in a Dream uniform.

Q: Did you see this moment coming based on your success this season? Did you expect to earn an All-Star bid?

A: I didn’t ever really think like that. My mission is to win basketball games. However we get that done, I want to be a part of that, and it’s my main goal. I never went in thinking about being an All-Star because that can be a popularity contest at times. I don’t get too caught up in it because there are many people who are deserving of being an All-Star.

You take Tiffany Hayes, for example. She’s leading our team in points and is one of the best scorers in the league. She wasn’t even part of the top 36, and that’s crazy if you go by statistics. I couldn’t get too hyped on the intangibles and things I could not control. I’m grateful that it happened, but I couldn’t worry about something determined by popularity.

Q: Is there something you’re looking forward to the most in Las Vegas?

A: I want to go out there and have a good time. It’s about living in the moment and enjoying myself. I’ve got my mom, dad and my girlfriend coming.

Q: What has led to your uptick in production this season? You seem to show more of a well-rounded offensive game beyond the mid-range jumper.

A: To be honest, I’ve just been playing my game. I take what the defense gives me. My comfort spot is obviously my mid-range, so I’ll get to that when I can. But if the defense is going to give me the 3-pointer, then I’m going to take it. I never had more of an emphasis on shooting 3s, but that’s how it all came out.

Q: After a season and a half, how do you feel about your tenure with the Dream?

A: Atlanta is dope. It’s definitely more of my speed. I love being close to home (a Folkston native). This is a great area and a great environment. Atlanta embodies something great as a whole. I plan on being here as long as I can and as long as it makes sense.

Q: As the team’s lone participant, how important is it to go to Las Vegas and represent a franchise that has flown under the radar in recent rebuilding seasons?

A: Everyone on this team knows what we’re capable of once we get it together. That’s how it goes, but it’s not going to happen overnight. As long as we’re on the same page and play our roles, we can bring a lot more Atlanta Dream pride to this city and build our organization up to what we think it could be.

Q: Looking ahead to the rest of the season, what do you want to see from your own play as things progress?

A: I guess, the biggest thing is making more shots. That can help us win some more games, so I don’t have to do anything more than keep playing my game. I know what I can do, so I have to continue to bring that to this organization.