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Williams excited to get started at WVU

Paul Schofield
| Sunday, May 13, 2012, 5:18 p.m.

The past year was tough on Latitia Williams.

The Monessen native was forced to watch the sport she loves to play — basketball — from the sidelines at West Virginia University.

NCAA transfer rules, not an injury, were the reason Williams had no choice but to sit and watch last year.

"I was depressed watching them play," Williams said. "Not being part of the team was difficult."

This year promises to be different. And Williams couldn't be happier.

"That's why I can't wait for the season to begin," she said.

Williams transferred to West Virginia after beginning her college career at St. Francis University, Pa., in Loretto. She spent one long season at St. Francis and realized that the university and the small mountain town it's a part of in Cambria County were not for her.

St. Francis is one of the premier women's basketball teams in the Northeast Conference, but that wasn't enough to keep Williams from leaving. She transferred to WVU, even though NCAA rules force an athlete to sit out one year when they transfer from one Division I program to another.

"It was the right move for me," Williams said. "I was unhappy, so I decided to change. I couldn't see myself up there for another three years. It was cold. I hated the trips up there in the winter and there was nothing to do."

So she headed south and landed in Morgantown, W.Va., to play for the Mountaineers in the Big East, one of the premier conferences in the country.

"I love everything about West Virginia," Williams said. "The campus, the basketball program and it's an easier drive for my family.

"St. Francis has a good program, but when I was in high school (Monessen) I was just happy to be going to a Division I program. I didn't take my time or listen to other offers."

Williams didn't play poorly during her freshman season at St. Francis. She started in 8 of 26 games and averaged 9.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. She led the Northeast Conference in field goal percentage (.584), was a two-time NEC rookie of the week and was selected to the all-rookie team.

Whether she can duplicate that remains to be seen, but the 6-foot-1 forward hopes her strong rebounding ability helps her earn playing time at West Virginia.

Williams had an outstanding high school career. She scored 1,663 points and pulled down 1,375 rebounds. She was selected by The Tribune-Review to the all-Westmoreland county team her senior year, and was named to numerous other all-star teams in the WPIAL.

Thought she hasn't played in more than a year, Williams has been working hard to improve her game. She hopes to contribute has a rebounder and scorer for the Mountaineers.

"Our conditioning coach is great," Williams said. "I'm stronger and I've never been in this good of shape.

"I'm more aggressive and my rebounding is better. I'm also a positive person."

Her hard work hasn't gone unnoticed by West Virginia coach Mike Caray. He, too, is anxious to see how Williams handles herself against the talented players in the Big East conference.

"Latitia is always looking to become consistently better," Caray said. "She possesses tremendous strength and determination, and is one of the team's strongest post players.

"She gives us something we didn't have last year, a big, strong presence in the paint. We're expecting a lot out of her. We're confident she can play in the Big East."

Caray said West Virginia recruited Williams when he learned she was available. He saw film on her and was impressed.

"Latitia is very coachable and has a great attitude," Caray said. "We feel our best basketball is ahead of her."

Williams has three years of eligibility left at West Virginia.

Williams' goal is to help West Virginia make the NCAA tournament. Throughout her basketball career in high school and college, she's never had the chance to play in a title game.

"We've always been close," Williams said. "But we've never gotten the brass ring.

"Before I got to St. Francis, they made it to the title game and NCAA tournament. The year I played there, we missed it, and then when I left they made it back. It was the same way in high school."

She hopes to be on a title team this time around.

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