Williams leading playoff push for LU

Jylisa Williams of the Thunderwolves women’s basketball team is averaging over 20 points per game.
(Brent Linton)
Jylisa Williams of the Thunderwolves women’s basketball team is averaging over 20 points per game. (Brent Linton)

By Gary Moskalyk
The Lakehead University women’s basketball team has been sitting on a 5-foot-8 keg of dynamite for half a season.
When Jylisa Williams was finally unleashed she scored 39 points in her first game in 25 minutes of play, against a team 10-2 at the time.
The points, rebounds, steals and all things basketball have followed since.
“When you just look at the stats, she’s second in the league in scoring (20.6 points per game), third in steals (2.9), fourth in rebounding (10.2), she’s also got four double-doubles in eight games,” said LU head coach Jon Kreiner.
“Just from sheer stats, it’s terrific. But she means a lot more than that especially on the defensive side of things. . . . She really makes things work for us. She’s able to handle players on her own. She’s able to lead through energy.
“The greatest impact she has is that she elevates our team — the play of our individual players,” he continued. “In practice and in games.”
An Atlanta, Ga., native, Williams played for Georgia State University.
“I played a year and a half, two years there,” said Williams. “Things weren’t going so well. So I kind of didn’t want to play ball anymore. Life decision I guess, to join the army. Get my life on track, discipline wise. It definitely did that. After my two years in the army, I loved the game so much I really wanted to play.”
Stationed in Alaska, the need to return to the court re-asserted itself.
A coach in Olds, Alta. (45 minutes from Calgary) got wind of Jylisa’s desire to continue playing.
The small college won a championship with her, Williams broke records and won player-of-the year.
Coach Kreiner saw Williams play last year and aggressively recruited Williams ever since.
Eligibility requirements kept her sidelined for the first half.
“The team kind of accepted me like I was one of their own when I came here for a visit. I felt really comfortable here. It was a waiting game the first semester. But the second semester I got my opportunity,” said Williams. “I’ve been on the radar ever since that (first) game.
“I actually look at it as a good thing. Kate (Ulakovic) had a break-out game last game. That made me really happy. I knew she was struggling a little bit, so now it opens up way more opportunities for my teammates. I’ll take that any day.
“I don’t care about averaging 30-something points. I like doing what it takes to win and helping out my teammates.”
The Thunderwolves aren’t a lock for the playoffs — their magic number is two. All things equal, they’ll probably open the playoffs on the road against McMaster.
“I feel like we’re underdogs,” said Williams.
“I actually like that. We were underdogs last year when I was in Alberta. We came out of nowhere to win the bronze medal in the nationals and won the championship first year in the league. This year, any night is ours. Looks like we’re going to play Mac (McMaster). Whoever brings their ‘A’ game, I feel, is the team that’s going to win.”
Don’t bet against them.Other winners for RBC athletes of the month for January include: Danielle Thiel, (female track and field); Mason Quarrell (male track and field); Erin Tribe (female nordic skiing); Harry Seaton (male nordic skiing); Kira While (women’s wrestling); Scott Christian (men’s wrestling); Sarah Reid (women’s volleyball); Andrew Wilkins (men’s hockey) and Dwayne Harvey (men’s basketball).