By Jacob Neidig
This article is part of a running series The Daily’s sports staff will be publishing on seniors.
Senior Kiana Williams is a five-foot-eight point guard from San Antonio, Texas on Stanford’s women’s basketball team. A three-year starter, Williams has earned many accolades over the course of her career — including Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Finalist, Pac-12 All Freshman Team, WBCA All American Honorable Mention, USBWA All American Honorable Mention, 2x All Pac-12 and 2019 Pac-12 Tournament Champion. Williams also had the opportunity to represent Team USA at the 2019 Pan American Games, where her team took second.
In this upcoming season, Williams hopes to build off her junior campaign, in which she averaged 15.0 points and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 41.6% from the field. Williams was recently named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award watchlist (awarded to the top shooting guard in the nation) and Wade Trophy watchlist (awarded to the top DI women’s player), among other pre-season honors.
The Daily’s Jacob Neidig spoke with Williams, who shared her thoughts on the upcoming season and reflected on her time on the Farm thus far.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): How did you first get into basketball?
Kiana Williams (KW): I started playing basketball at the age of five. I started playing organized in a competitive little league in San Antonio. I received my first scholarship offer in eighth grade, so that’s when I knew, “Okay, I might be good at this, and I really, really need to get serious.”
TSD: What was your recruiting process like, and when did you end up deciding to go to Stanford?
KW: It’s crazy that actually yesterday, four years ago, I signed my letter of intent to come here. The recruiting process for me was fun. It was stressful, but it was fun. It was nice getting to know coaches, getting to know some players that I liked watching. But at the end of the day, when Stanford started recruiting me and I found out I got accepted, it was just a no brainer and hard for me to say no — just the history behind the program. So many players have played for [head coach] Tara [VanDerveer], and she’s been doing this for 30-plus years. Away from basketball, she really cares about her players as people; she’s really genuine and straightforward with you, and that’s one thing I love about her.
TSD: Do you remember your first Stanford practice? Was it nerve racking or harder than you expected?
KW: My freshman year, I thought I came in in shape and that first practice, I was just exhausted. The pace of college basketball is so much different than high school, that jump is just so different. And I’m thankful that I had a summer to get ready before official practices started. Being away from home for the first time and being in a new environment with a new basketball system trying to adjust to that; our returners and our senior captain really helped us transition.
TSD: How has your experience been playing under VanDerveer, and do you have any funny moments that stick out?
KW: She’s extremely smart. Every time we have a conversation, I learn something from her. A funny moment, I’d say was two years ago at the Pac-12 tournament. My sophomore year, we were in the championship game against Oregon. And she comes in, she’s about to do her pregame talk. She’s just standing there and out of nowhere, she just yells. I think that’s when we knew we were going to win that game. So, we went out and we won that Pac-12 tournament championship. We all laughed, and then we got serious and got to business. Coach Tara is an amazing person. And I’m glad that I got to play for her for four years.
TSD: How do you think your game has specifically changed from high school to college?
KW: I’m a lot more mature. In terms of me being a point guard, you have to be the leader, you’re directing traffic and making sure everyone’s on the same page. So for me, I’m just a lot more confident using my voice and telling people what to do. And in high school, I was really a quiet good basketball player, but now I’m using my voice and being more vocal. I still have some ways to go especially if I want to play in the pros, which I want to do.
TSD: What did your training look like during the lockdown?
KW: I was home in San Antonio for six months during the lockdown. My brother trains me, so those six months, we got into the gym and really got back to the basics. I’m focusing on those small details and what I used to do in high school and middle school. We watched a lot of film. I think I watched every game last year and might have watched a few games more than once with my brother and my dad. They’re my two biggest fans, but also two of my biggest critics… Obviously, I was sad because our season ended, but I looked at it as a blessing in disguise.
TSD: Do you model your game after anyone? If so, who and why?
KW: My favorite point guards are Sue Bird and Chris Paul. They’re really great at the pick and roll. I feel like at the next level, that’s what you have to master, so I try to model my game after a combination of those two. Chris Paul — he’s super smart. I think he’s got to be a head coach one day, and he just makes the right reads, makes his teammates around him better. And that’s what I try to do every time I step on the court. Sue Bird, not only for longevity but her ability to make clutch shots. She’s been elite for almost 20 years, which is crazy. She’s been doing all the right things off the court, taking care of her body, eating the right stuff.
TSD: Are there any opponents that you look forward to playing every year or any particular players that you really enjoy going against?
KW: I don’t really have any one team circled. Obviously, we lost to Oregon last year three times, so I’m looking forward to playing them again. Our Pac-12 rival Cal is always a great game. They’re going to be really good this year. But honestly, just being able to play a basketball game is going to be really fun. So, I wouldn’t say there’s one team that I’m looking forward to but you know, just the teams that we lost to last year.
TSD: Do you have a favorite play from your own career?
KW: I have to say the Colorado buzzer beater. I still sit back and watch that play and just the two plays back-to-back. I’ll watch it over and over. I’m like, “That really happened.” It was a surreal moment. Just give credit to my teammates. We stayed with things when they weren’t looking pretty. We were losing most of the game, and we just happened to make some big plays at the end, and I happened to make those two shots.
TSD: Are you a superstitious person? Do you have any pregame routines?
KW: Some people call it superstition. I just like to say I have a strict routine I like to stick to. I don’t like to look at it as superstition but DiJonai [Carrington ’20], my best friend last year, would say I’m superstitious. I like to get my left foot taped first, then my right. Then my left sock and shoe on first, then my right. I have to listen to music before the game. I try not to fall asleep before games or take naps. I don’t know why I just wake up groggy and in a funk. I also have to get my bacon and eggs on game day. But I just say it’s a routine. I don’t like to call it superstition.
TSD: What are some of your personal goals that you’re trying to accomplish this season?
KW: First and foremost, not just for me, but our team just trying to remain healthy. That’s the number one goal. I want to keep my teammates healthy, keep our coaches healthy. Personally, I want to make a lot of memories and cherish these last few months I have on the Farm. We want to be Pac- 12 champs, we want to win the Pac-AC 12 tournament, I want to get to San Antonio [for the national championship] — but those are larger scale goals. For me, I’m just trying to take advantage of every day that we have.
This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.