The Oklahoma Sooners electrified the nation during the 2021-22 NCAA season, playing a relentlessly uptempo brand of basketball under first-year head coach Jennie Baranczyk that ranked third in Division I in points scored per game (82.6). Per Her Hoop Stats, the Sooners played at the second-fastest pace in the country, trailing only Troy in possessions per 40 minutes.
While the Sooners have quality players up and down their lineup, none embody their uptempo approach quite like fifth-year guard/forward Madi Williams. Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas, the 5-foot-11 Williams chose to return to Oklahoma following a successful senior season that saw the Sooners earn their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2017, using the extra year of NCAA eligibility granted to winter athletes during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
ᴇʟɪᴛᴇ ʀᴇᴄᴏɢɴɪᴛɪᴏɴ ꜰᴏʀ ᴀɴ ᴇʟɪᴛᴇ ᴘʟᴀʏᴇʀ.— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_WBBall) March 9, 2022
Madi Williams is one of 5️⃣ finalists for the Cheryl Miller Award, given out each year to the country’s best small forward! #Sooners x @madi_wms pic.twitter.com/zEhMLaQmOC
According to Baranczyk, Williams’ decision to return to Oklahoma wasn’t a difficult one, though she’s aware that her star wing can and will go pro eventually. As with most WNBA Draft-eligible players who chose to return to college for an extra season, Williams’ fifth year will be crucial in preparing her for the next level. Let’s take a look at her career thus far and what she excels at.
Honors and statistics
Williams was ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz as the No. 24 overall recruit (No. 4 wing) in the class of 2018 after a storied high school career that included appearances in the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic.
As a freshman at Oklahoma, Williams was named a starter, leading the Sooners in rebounding (eight per game) while immediately showcasing the multitude of ways she can affect the game. Her scoring came around as a sophomore (16.1 points per game) and she led the Sooners in points per game as both a junior (20) and senior (18). Williams was named to the All-Big-12 Team in both of her upperclassman seasons and garnered a WBCA All-American Honorable Mention nod in 2022.
Entering her fifth season at Oklahoma, Williams was named to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see her named to the 2022-23 watch list for the Cheryl Miller Award (given to the nation’s top small forward), either; Williams finished as a finalist for the award in 2022.
Williams coming into her own as all-around scorer
If there’s one thing the Sooners quickly became known for last season, it was playing fast. Three of Oklahoma’s starters — Williams, Kelbie Washington and Taylor Robertson — ranked first, third and fourth among Big 12 players in total transition possessions, respectively. Williams’ conference-leading 198 transition possessions accounted for 29.3 percent of her total contributions to Oklahoma’s offense, per Synergy Sports.
For the type of player Williams is, this style of play is ideal. A plus athlete on the wing, Williams is at her best when she’s attacking the basket, and the frequency at which Oklahoma pushes the ball (as well as the Sooners’ emphasis on floor spacing; 35.2 percent 3-point attempt rate, per Her Hoop Stats) often puts her in mismatch situations where she can use her quick first step to get to the hoop.
That’s not to say Williams relies purely on her athleticism to score points. Her scoring has become more well-rounded during her time at Oklahoma; as a senior, she recorded an at-rim/jumpshot split of 55/45 in the halfcourt, and while her jumpshot is still a work in progress, she attempted 132 threes last season — over three times the amount (35) she attempted as a junior. This kind of increase in 3-point volume is usually indicative of a next-level athlete looking to flesh out their game in hopes of making a good impression on pro coaches, which, for Williams, is a distinct possibility.
Williams’ scoring package was on full display Jan. 3, 2021, when she scored a program-record 45 points against Big 12 rival West Virginia:
4⃣5⃣ points— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_WBBall) January 3, 2021
17-30 FG | 3-7 3FG | 8-9 FT@madi_wms was insanely as she set the OU single-game scoring record and scored the most points by a Division I women's basketball player this season. pic.twitter.com/FdF75KOrwB
The continuing development of Williams’ jumpshot will be something to watch as she enters her fifth season at Oklahoma, as will her decision-making and ball security in general. There’s no doubt that she can thrive in an uptempo, free-flowing offensive scheme, but there’s no guarantee she’ll be allowed that kind of freedom in the pros — at least not right away. Her athleticism will give her a fair chance, however, and given the trajectory her game has followed in college, expect Williams to continue elevating to meet the challenges faced by WNBA draft prospects.
Watch her play
The Sooners’ 2022-23 non-conference schedule includes five games against 2022 NCAA Tournament participants: BYU (Nov. 15), Utah (Nov. 16; Pac-12 Network), UT Arlington (Nov. 20; ESPN+), Ole Miss (Dec. 4; ESPN+) and Florida (Dec. 21; ESPN2). Their matchup against UT Arlington carries a little extra WNBA Draft flair as Williams and the Sooners go against reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year Starr Jacobs (21 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in 2021-22).
It’s then on to Big 12 play. While Oklahoma has just one nationally-televised game in its conference, it should be a good one. The Sooners play Ashley Joens and Iowa State on Jan. 8 (ESPN2) in what will likely be a high-scoring affair.