It’s not the season that Shae Williams envisioned. The Boyd senior was supposed to be helping lead her team to a playoff spot in the very tough District 9-2A, but that all changed with one trip down the court.
Williams injured her knee Dec. 4 against Decatur, and nothing has been the same since.
When she went down, all she felt was her knee cap shift out of place and come back, but it ended up being much more serious.
An MRI showed a torn right ACL, a torn meniscus and torn cartilage, and her knee cap had popped out of place.
With a brace the doctor gave her the OK to play, but there was still risk of more damage – and she wouldn’t be nearly the same player.
“Her mother and I agreed that she needed to have surgery and get ready for the opportunity to play college basketball,” Boyd coach Lynn Cranfill said. “On paper she’s going to be ready in June for tryouts.
“We preach ‘team’ up here all the time, but sometimes the individual is more important than the team. Her future is more important than what we are trying to do.”
Although difficult, Williams embraced the decision and decided to have surgery to repair her knee.
“I have my future to look forward to,” Williams said. “I’m not going to be in high school the rest of my life. I knew if I got the surgery now I would still have a chance to play in college.”
The few weeks between the injury and Williams’ surgery was a difficult time for the Lady Jackets. Boyd struggled to find their way, and the whole team was just going through the motions.
“It’s just another bump in the road that we all had to get over, and we had to do it for Shae,” teammate Chelsea Elkins said. “During that time we expected her to be back, and even though she was on the bench I think we were still trying to throw her the ball.”
Soon after Williams’ decision, Cranfill decided to break the news to his team after practice.
“I didn’t want them to find out through social media,” Cranfill said. “It was like telling them there wasn’t a Santa Claus. We had a hangover for awhile. We’ve gotten over it, come together and Shae being there helps tremendously.”
On Dec. 27, during the first round of the Ector Tournament, Williams was in the operating room while her team was on the court.
It was the first game the Lady Jackets had played with out Williams’ presence and it showed. Although they struggled, it was the first step in the process of playing the rest of the season without her.
After the Ector Tournament it started to sink in that their senior-leader wasn’t going to play again as a Lady Jacket. At the time of her injury, Williams led the team with 20 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
“It finally snuck in their heads that she wasn’t coming back,” Cranfill said. “They knew they had to start playing without her and while we haven’t won a whole lot of games, we are getting better. They’ve all picked up their roles.”
Elkins added that everybody had to do just a little bit more.
“Everyone had to step up their game, get those extra points, get those extra rebounds and get that extra drive,” Elkins said. “With Shae’s support on the side it’s been helpful. It’s like we have a little angel out there helping us go through it all.”
Williams has been right there the whole way. She is at every practice, except for the three days a week she has physical therapy, and is on the bench for every game.
“I try to give them advice to get better and help them reach their dreams,” Williams explained. “I have to be a leader on the bench now and not on the court.”
With Williams’ help from the sidelines, Cranfill has seen his team grow in many ways.
“It’s built the character of this team, because we were relying on her so much,” Cranfill said. “Now the other girls have to step up and do their thing. This is a learning experience for them.”
Three months from the date of surgery Williams is expected to start running and in four months start cutting and working on her jumpshot. In six months she can start full contact and move right into summer league.
Williams then hopes a college takes interest so she can work on her physical therapy degree while playing the game she loves.
Until then Williams plans on continuing to help her team any way she can.
“They still need me, and I need them” she explained. “They are like my family – and you can’t walk away from family.”