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Feb. 18, 2007

by Cathy Bongiovi

November 12, 2006, will forever be remebered as the day Virginia played its first game at the John Paul Jones Arena. For senior Siedah Williams, that day will mean so much more. Not only did she score the first basket in the Cavaliers’ new home, she scored the team’s first 11 points and etched her name into the history books.

Playing in the new arena has been a highlight for Williams during her final season for the Orange and Blue.

“Three years ago when I first got here, I thought U-Hall was amazing,” Williams said. “And then knowing that my last year they were going to build a new arena, and I’m going to get to play my last year there, actually playing here now is … I really can’t explain it. I have no words for it. It’s just so … it takes words out of my mouth. I love it here. I can actually live here, get a cot, live in the locker room, and I’d be set.”

The 6-2 center from Cleveland, Ohio, should also reach 1,000 points in her career before the season’s end, becoming the 23rd Cavalier to reach the milestone. Surprised about the approaching achievement, the level-headed team captain takes it all in stride.

“I was in shock,” Williams said. “I said, `Wow, I can’t believe I’m actually going to hit 1,000.’ Just going down in the record books is always an honor. I can tell my younger sister and my future kids, `Yeah, I’m in the records books for reaching 1,000 points at UVa.’ That’s an honor.”

Her teammates also bestowed another honor upon her- team captain for a second consecutive season.

“It means being a leader, both vocally and a leader by example,” Williams said. “Just being able to show the underclassmen the ropes and help them through their first year. I was once in their shoes, and I had Lynette (O’Reggio), Jocelyn (Logan-Friend), LaTonya (Blue), and Kate (Kreager) to help me through my first year. They’re going to go through some rough times, and they’re going to go through some high times, but I just want to be there for my teammates and help them through anything on the court or off the court.”

Williams often draws from her own experiences to share words of wisdom with the younger players.

“Definitely stay on top of your academics,” Williams said. “When I first got here, I struggled with the whole transition from high school to college. And I just kept at it; I kept working; I kept using my resources, and now I’m an honor roll student. Have a strong work ethic and just keep working at whatever you do best. Just keep working at it and stay committed. Basically have fun. If you’re not having fun with whatever sport you’re playing, then it’s not going to be a good four years in college.”

“You’re going to face adversity,” Williams continued. “It’s those times when you find out who you really are and learn to fight through them, whether you can do it yourself or you need a helping hand like a captain or another teammate. You have to fight for it. If you’re determined and committed, you’ll fight through it.”

Williams lives with fellow captain Tara McKnight. Nicknamed “Grandma” by the coaching staff, Williams has been designated the team cook for gatherings.

“I’m usually the one, if there’s a team thing, I cook,” Williams said. “I make chicken; fried chicken, baked chicken, grilled chicken. I also like making spaghetti. That’s one of my specialties.”

Williams has also been cooking on the court. Averaging 8.6 point and 7.0 rebounds per game this season, she has faced her fair share of adversity during her collegiate career. During the last two seasons, Williams played through endless injuries. Surgery during the off-season has helped, but she does not plan to play basketball after she gets her degree in anthropology this spring.

“I’m fine now, but that’s my main reason for not wanting to continue playing because of so many injuries,” Williams said. “I just don’t think I can bear it any more.”

With three regular-season games to go and the postseason picture still to be determined, Williams knows her days on the court for UVa are coming to a close.

“It’s exciting and at the same time, overwhelming and a bit frightening,” Williams said. “After this, I’ll be out in the real world. I’m going to go back home for awhile and try to find a part-time job just to get on my feet. After that, I don’t know.”

Williams wants to make the most of the time she has left at Virginia.

“Our main goal is to earn the respect of other teams,” Williams said. “Yes, we’ve lost a lot of games that we should have won, but stuff like that happens. We want to let everyone know that we are a good team; this is a great program- the coaching staff, the team, everyone involved with this program; this is a great place. We just want to show that we are a good team, and we can make it far.”

Out of Bounds with Siedah Williams

Most embarrassing song on my iPod …
Mmm Bop by Hanson

Three words that best describe me …
funny, out-going, confident

The extreme activity I would like to try …
bungee jumping

My advice to a young athlete is …
never let anyone tell you that you can’t do or be what you want.

Best Christmas present as a kid …
easy bake oven

I chose my jersey number, because …
it sort of runs in the family.

Things I always pack for road trips are …
my cell phone charger and snacks

The best thing about being a Cavalier is …
the history behind UVa and playing with Debbie.

Best thing I like about John Paul Jones Arena is …
the dining hall and the hot tub in the locker room.

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