Saturday, February 16

UCLA alumna inducted into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

Former UCLA basketball and volleyball standout Natalie Williams was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Saturday.

The 6-foot-2 dual-sport athlete initially earned a scholarship to play basketball for the Bruins but decided to walk on to the women’s volleyball team as a freshman where she finished her career as a four-time All-American.

In 1993, Williams earned All-American honors in both sports, becoming the first woman to accomplish the feat.

After leading the volleyball team to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1990 and 1991, Williams – the daughter of former NBA player Nate Williams – turned her attention toward basketball, earning UCLA’s first Pac-12 Player of the Year honors in 1994.

An ACL injury during the 1993-1994 season halted her basketball career and led Williams to concentrate on volleyball and making the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Williams was one of the final women cut from the U.S. national team, leading the then-26 year old to renew her passion for basketball.

“That’s when I said, ‘I’m going to go back and do something I love,’” Williams said in an interview with ESPN. “I wanted to get back into basketball, and (then-UCLA coach) Kathy Olivier helped a lot getting me an R. William Jones Cup tryout. I was so rusty; I hadn’t played basketball in two years. But I made the team, and it went from there.”

The forward made the national team in 1998 for the FIBA World Championship. After a dominant run through the first eight games of the tournament, the U.S. squeaked by Russia 71-65 for the title. The former Bruin averaged 12.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, ranking second and first on the team in each category respectively.

Williams made the roster for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and helped the U.S. claim its second consecutive gold medal with a 76-54 win over Australia in the final.

She continued her basketball career after the Olympics, playing professionally in the American Basketball League and in the WNBA. Before retiring in 2005, she averaged 13.1 points and 8.3 rebounds over seven seasons in Utah and Indiana and was a two-time All-ABL first team honoree and the 1998 ABL Most Valuable Player.

Williams joins fellow UCLA women’s basketball legends Denise Curry and Ann Meyers-Drysdale as Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductees.

Email Dam at [email protected] or tweet @tueydam.

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