Every single day before practice, each member of the Florida women’s basketball team takes a moment to reflect on what they’re thankful for and writes it down on a piece of paper.
Typically, players have the option to keep what they write to themselves, but at a recent practice, freshman guard Delicia Washington announced that she wanted to share her note with the rest of her teammates and coaches.
“I’m grateful for Ronni (Williams),” coach Amanda Butler recalled Washington saying.
Williams, the SEC’s top scorer and lone fourth-year senior at UF, has served as a mentor to the younger players in her program all season.
She’s tutored underclassmen like Washington in the ways of the game and taught them the ins and outs of how to be a college athlete. She’s also set an example on the court, frequently sacrificing her body on dives for loose balls and drawn charges.
“If you want to be a great player who’s also a great teammate and a great leader, that’s what it looks like,” Butler said of Williams.
However, when the Gators took the floor at Memorial Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon to face Vanderbilt, Williams not only earned respect and admiration from the members of her team. She earned it from the rest of her conference as well.
The Daytona Beach native notched a career-high 43 points against the Commodores, including 33 in the second half, to set the mark for highest scoring total from an SEC player this season.
Williams’ offensive outburst was led by an efficient shooting day from the floor, knocking down 14-of-23 attempts from the field and 15-of-17 attempts from the free-throw line.
She stuffed the stat sheet in other categories as well, pulling down 14 rebounds, nabbing four steals and dishing out three assists on the way to sealing Florida’s second conference win of 2017.
“Ronni’s performance was just inspiring and amazing, and it was just really fun to be part of,” Butler said. “Her teammates were giving her the ball right where she wanted it, and then she was answering the call it seemed like every single time.”
Williams had stretches against Vanderbilt where she appeared unstoppable. The senior pushed the tempo in the first quarter, converting on two fastbreak layups and a jumper to give UF an 11-point lead after the opening 10 minutes.
Williams then continued her hot start into the second half, knocking down four consecutive shots at the beginning of the third quarter to boost UF’s advantage up to 14 points.
“There was an element of ‘I don’t have much to do here,’” Butler said. “I just kind of got to figure out what’s the next play call where we get Ronni a touch. She was so automatic.”
Williams’ outing on Sunday also placed her third all-time in Gator history for the most points scored in a game, falling behind only Quientella Bonner, who scored 45 on Jan. 22, 1977, and Merlakia Jones, who scored 44 on Jan. 25, 1995.
While Butler is proud of the record-setting performance her senior had over the weekend, she holds Williams’ leadership this season in just as high a regard, looking no further than the declaration by Washington that she was most thankful for her fellow teammate.
“I don’t think you can have a higher compliment than a freshman recognizing you that way,” Butler said.
UF forward Ronni Williams prepares to shoot a free throw during Florida's 84-75 loss to Tennessee on Jan. 26, 2017, in the O'Connell Center.