Pelham’s Hilary Williams, surrounded by family, friends and coaches, slips on a Longwood University hat after signing a basketball scholarship with the Division I school on Thursday. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
PELHAM — The tears streamed down Hilary Williams’ face as she stood in the Pelham High School gymnasium on Thursday.
After signing a basketball scholarship with Division I Longwood (Va.) University, the star point guard started hugging family members and friends — and then the emotions became overwhelming.
It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime, dream-come-true moments.
And the only way Williams knew how to celebrate was with tears.
“These are tears of joy,” she said.
It was all she could say during an interview following the signing ceremony, but it was enough.
Williams, who averaged 8.6 points, 3.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game her senior season, was a key part of a Lady Hornet team that sat on top of The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll for much of the year and went undefeated before losing to Laney in the Elite 8. Williams is the first Pelham basketball player to sign a Division I scholarship in 14 years.
“She was our floor leader,” Pelham coach Antonia Tookes said. “She was the best ball handler I have had since I have been coaching and has tremendous upside. She has been a great addition to our program, and I hate to lose her. I wish I had her for one more year.”
Williams will be joining a Longwood program that competes in the Big South Conference. Last season, the Lady Lancers finished 8-22 overall and 5-15 in the Big South under head coach Bill Reinson. Williams fielded offers from several Division I programs, but said the moment she stepped on Longwood’s campus in Farmville, Va., that it felt like home.
Williams, who was named Second Team All-Area by The Herald, emerged as one of south Georgia’s top point guards this season and ended her career with 1,091 points.
“She hasn’t even fully met her potential, and Longwood sees where she is going,” Tookes said. “Hilary has the best ball handling skills of anybody I have ever seen, and I’m not saying that because she is one of my players. And she can shoot the ball, which a lot of people don’t know. She has a perfect shot. When she gets both of those going, the sky is the limit.”