2012 WNBA Draft Prospect: The Curious Case Of Riquna Williams

The basketball future of Riquna Williams hangs in the balance today, after not playing since the ACC Tournament. (Credit: Mark Dolejs-US PRESSWIRE)

As mock draft selections ebb and flow into the actual draft to be held today in Bristol, the fate of many women will become more transparent as each pick is sent to the league for confirmation.

But for one, no matter where her name falls on the draft board, her path just might be a little murkier.

Riquna 'Bay Bay' Williams was a standout in high school in Pahokee, Florida. She went on to become part of a dynamic duo at Miami, teaming up with fellow 2012 draft standout Shenise Johnson to lead the Hurricane over the past four seasons. Well, until the 2012 NCAA tournament began. Williams was left at home as her team traveled to Spokane, Wash., for the first two rounds of the competition. When they traveled back to the beach, their season was finished.

The official word was 'conduct detrimental to the team'. It was accepted by many and has some experts doubting that it will do much to Williams' draft stock. But for me, there is something more. Something serious. And something potentially disruptive to a locker room going on.

This weekend, the Palm Beach Post answered some questions about the still-unclear situation. They also added a few questions to be asked and perpetuated this dubious feeling about whomever takes a chance on picking Williams in the draft. I can't discount her basketball ability, and I personally can't discount her character either. But the Palm Beach Post left me doing just that.

The things that stood out on the page first in The Post's article:

A university source confirmed this week that UM's players were given the choice by Meier to decide if Williams should accompany the team to Spokane. They voted to keep Williams home.

Asked last week if she had spoken to Williams since she was punished, [coach Katie] Meier said: "I'm just not involved with that."

The players voted to keep Williams home. The players. Who were trying to escape a regional as the No. 3 seed going into hostile territory. The players. Who you would assume had developed tight bonds with one of the senior leaders on the court. But those same players felt it wouldn't behoove the team to have Williams even come with them on the trip.

And then there's this. She hasn't spoken with her college coach in the past over a month? Williams has been away from campus and is finishing her degree courses online. And hasn't spoken to her coach since her 'conduct detrimental'. Which, Riquna doesn't even think is the right term:

UM's explanation that she was left home because of conduct detrimental to the team "bothered me," Williams said.

"It wasn't true," Williams said.

Um. Then what is true? Williams and the university have both acknowledged that it wasn't a legal matter, as some in the rumor mill have churned up. Who knows? No one but Williams at this point, I guess. Another thing that I was particularly surprised by was the complete cessation of contact between the two teammates that will be sharing the ESPN stage today.

But Johnson said she hasn't heard from Williams, despite attempts to reach out to her teammate.

"I spent the last four years next to her," said Johnson, who is projected to be drafted No. 2 overall on Monday. "It's really, really really sad. It hurts me."

....

"I haven't seen her," Johnson said. "I want to know if she's doing well. We could talk. Put some things behind us."

I don't know what things the two have to put behind them. But it certainly doesn't appear that Williams shares these same desires to move on and continue a relationship with Johnson. Which leads me to think this:

She is a risk.

Regardless of the situation that got Williams suspended for the tournament, her behavior in handling the aftermath of the situation makes me think she might not be the best teammate, the most coachable player or the greatest locker room presence wherever she lands next. She has completely cut off her association with Miami other than attending online classes from home? She won't talk to her coach? Or her teammates? Or tell us what really happened to cause this huge rift in the first place?

I've walked into locker rooms where issues were present. I've seen a dysfunctional situation blacken a team and cause more turmoil than I expected (hello, Tulsa 2010). Obviously, I hope this week in Bristol has softened the tension between Williams and Johnson. And I honestly hope I'm wrong in my hesitation about Riquna's character. But if I'm right, oh boy. I hope the organization that chooses her, chooses wisely.

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