EX­TEND­ING HER RANGE

Wil­liams’ fo­cus on be­com­ing bet­ter three-point shooter has paid div­i­dends

Chicago Sun-Times - - SKY BEAT - BY MADE­LINE KEN­NEY mken­ney@sun­times.com @mad­ken­ney

While play­ing in France this off­sea­son, Sky guard/for­ward Gabby Wil­liams’ fo­cus was build­ing on her 2019 suc­cess in hopes that she could be­come more of a con­sis­tent of­fen­sive threat.

So far in the WNBA sea­son, her work has paid off.

Wil­liams is more con­fi­dent in her game than ever be­fore. She’s sink­ing threes and isn’t let­ting any of her anx­i­eties hamper her suc­cess as they had in the past.

Take last week­end as an ex­am­ple. Wil­liams had an off night July 30 against the Lynx. She went 0-for-6 from three-point range, scor­ing four points in 23 min­utes.

Wil­liams had never missed that many threes in a WNBA game be­cause she had never at­tempted more than three in a game.

In pre­vi­ous sea­sons, Wil­liams would dwell on her mis­takes and over­an­a­lyze ev­ery­thing af­ter a game like that, which would lead to her be­ing timid with the ball in the next game in fear of let­ting her team­mates down.

But Wil­liams has flipped the script. In­stead of fall­ing into a cy­cle of self-doubt, she moved on and dom­i­nated her next game against the Mys­tics, go­ing 4-for-5 from the arc and record­ing 16 points and nine re­bounds.

“I feel like I was very hes­i­tant and I would hold onto the ball too long when I would shoot be­cause I was al­ways think­ing twice about it,” Wil­liams said of her past self. “But now I’m not think­ing twice so much. It’s all one mo­tion ver­sus me kind of paus­ing in the air or slow­ing down my shot.”

Wil­liams’ hes­i­tancy cost her points and kept her back from reach­ing her full po­ten­tial, a trait that had haunted her since her UConn days. But Wil­liams said she isn’t go­ing to let that be the case mov­ing for­ward.

“If this is what I want to do, if I want to de­velop my shot and I want to be­come a bet­ter shooter, I have to be OK with miss­ing,” Wil­liams said. “The best shoot­ers in the game shoot 40 per­cent, which means they’re miss­ing over half of their shots, so that’s just some­thing that I’ve thought.”

That new­found mindset, paired with the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing in her third WNBA sea­son, has made a world of dif­fer­ence for Wil­liams and the Sky, who are 4-2.

Two weeks into the sea­son, Wil­liams has al­ready sur­passed the num­ber of three­p­oint­ers she made in each of the pre­vi­ous two years by three. She has gone 10-for-28 (35.7 per­cent) from the perime­ter in six games.

“It’s been a process to get her there,” coach James Wade said. “She worked on [three-point shoot­ing this off­sea­son], and so it’s like the fruits of her la­bor. It wouldn’t make sense that you do all that work on your shot and you don’t shoot it. So we en­cour­age her to shoot the ball, and she’s found con­fi­dence.”

That con­fi­dence has helped her over­all game — from de­fend­ing to ball­han­dling and play­mak­ing — and has made her a player other teams can’t af­ford to over­look.

“She’s like a point for­ward when you have her at the four, and it’s tough to guard,” Court­ney Van­der­sloot said. “Her ath­leti­cism is just above ev­ery­one.

“Now she’s start­ing to re­ally get com­fort­able, she’s re­ally found her out­side shot and she’s just a threat. She does so much and she at­tacks the game on both ends, so it’s been fun to watch. I knew it would hap­pen even­tu­ally. We just had to be pa­tient with her, and you can tell she’s just made strides in the last cou­ple of years.” ✶

PHE­LAN M. EBENHACK/AP

Gabby Wil­liams

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