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Maybe it’s because she prefers to play basketball against grown men at Baisley Park in her native South Jamaica than compete on the AAU circuit. Or maybe it’s because she prides herself more on her defensive ability than her ever-improving offensive game.
For whatever reason, Shanee Williams, the lone senior on the Murry Bergtraum girls’ basketball team, isn’t usually mentioned in the same breath with New York City’s best players.
“I have no idea,” Lady Blazers Coach Ed Grezinsky said, when asked how a player on his team, the city’s best for a decade, could be underrated. “She’s easily the best player in the city.”
Williams can’t really be pigeonholed into a specific style. She’s an outstanding three-point shooter, but can slash to the hoop, too, with equal success. Williams had 26 points and six three-pointers against North Babylon on Saturday. She had 27 against Copiague and 23 against Paint Branch (Md.) in wins last weekend, but didn’t use the three to compile her points quite like she did Saturday.
On defense, she routinely gets assigned the other team’s best player. Last weekend, that included North Babylon’s Bria Hartley, Copiague’s Ieasia Walker and Paint Branch’s Tarik Hislop. Williams didn’t necessarily shut those three Division I bound players down, but Bergtraum blew out each team.
“I’m all about defense,” Williams said. “Defense wins games.”
She really showed off her defensive versatility in last year’s New York State Federation Class AA championship game against St. John the Baptist. For part of the game, Williams, only 5-feet-6, guarded 6-foot-3 post player Christine Huber. The Rutgers-bound Huber had only 13 points and the Lady Blazers cruised to their second straight Federation title.
That was hardly Williams’ toughest defensive assignment. When she was a freshman, Williams would guard current Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince, one of the best scorers in NYC history, in practice.
“Everyone else was too scared to,” Williams said with a laugh.
She says her love for defense started before high school, when she was playing for the Positive Direction AAU program in Rosedale, run by JoAnn Arbitello. The Lady Wildcats, Williams said, were all about pressing and turning turnovers into easy baskets. That’s similar to how Bergtraum plays now.
“That’s where I got the defense from,” said Williams, who turned 18 Thursday.
Grezinsky is quick to call Williams “fearless.” That’s as much a part of her game as the three-point shooting and excellent defense. She has no problem banging around inside with the biggest posts. Williams says growing up in South Jamaica has made her tougher on the court.
“I don’t get how she just shoots in people’s faces,” Bergtraum junior CeCe Dixon said.
While Williams might be underrated, there are Division I colleges taking notice. Williams said Miami, Kentucky and Penn State, among others, have shown interest. Grezinsky said a coach from Kentucky was in Lower Manhattan this weekend for the Bergtraum Holiday Classic.
But the coach says his senior is being under-recruited. North Babylon Coach Mike Petre intimated the same thing after Saturday’s game.
Wherever Williams ends up next year — she said if she keeps her grades where they are now, she won’t have a problem qualifying — she has a chance to make an impact immediately.
“They don’t talk about her,” Bergtraum junior Shukurah Washington said. “She’s gonna be a secret [in college] that nobody knows about.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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