July 21, 2022
The evolution of the Seattle Storm’s Gabby Williams
'I don't think she realizes how amazing she can be'
The Seattle Storm’s roster boasts some of the best of the best in the WNBA. Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, and Breanna Stewart, Seattle’s “big three,” have dominated the league for the past few years. After adding legend Tina Charles, Stewart simply put it: “It’s hard for people to guard us. Just look at our lineup, it’s a lot of greatness on this team.”
But a key part of the Storm roster’s greatness is the player that does it all: Gabby Williams.
After a very successful college career at UConn, Williams was drafted fourth overall by the Chicago Sky in the 2018 draft. In her three seasons with the Sky, she averaged 6.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.9 assists. During the 2021-2022 WNBA off-season, Williams was traded to Seattle by the Los Angeles Sparks, whom she never played for due to overseas commitments.
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Williams’ growth throughout her WNBA career, ironically, has largely come from her time playing outside the WNBA. She spent two years playing in Hungary with Sopron Basket alongside her current teammate Briann January. Together, they led Sopron to win the 2022 EuroLeague Championship and Williams was named EuroLeague Final Four MVP after scoring 17 points in the final, 14 points in the semifinals, and a career-high 32 points in the quarterfinals.
What worked so well for Gabby overseas? “I think it’s given me an opportunity to play what I feel is my true position,” Williams said. “In Chicago, I was bounced between backup point guard and forward and I could never prove myself as a true wing player. So I think overseas, I just gained that confidence with the ball in my hands, with my shot, with my facilitating, all of those things came with getting those reps in overseas.”
Another aspect of that boost in confidence for Williams is her support system, which spans across the globe. Williams is bilingual and a dual citizen of her mother’s home country, France. Even though she was born and raised in the United States, Williams’ heritage is a huge part of her identity. “Sue [Bird] is like, ‘you’re not even American to me, you’re French,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m just both!'” Williams said.
Williams’ heritage made it possible for her to represent France at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where she won a bronze medal with the French women’s national basketball team. Throughout the Olympics, the support from her family in France and from the French fans kept her going.
“In France, being on the national team is really something special,” Williams said, “It’s just so cool to see the passion of the French fans. Even if they don’t like basketball, they still admire their national team athletes.”
That unwavering support from French fans didn’t stop after the Olympics. The WNBA’s French fanbase is on the rise after Marine Johannes and Iliana Rupert, two of Gabby’s Olympic teammates, have recently joined Williams in the league.
“Seeing the rise of French basketball and seeing Marine and Iliana in the W is so freaking cool,” Gabby said, “The three of us are really close, so it’s nice. We’re always checking in on each other, talking to each other every day. Outside of being really good friends, I’m just a fan of both of them. I watch their highlights and everything. I love seeing them in the league.”
In addition to being cheered on by her family, the French fans, and her French teammates, Williams has even more support in her new home of Seattle. Her younger sister, Jayda Noble, is a student at the nearby University of Washington and plays for their women’s basketball team. You can find her and her UW teammates cheering Williams on in the stands of Climate Pledge Arena almost every game. She described the built-in friendship that she has with Jayda:
“It’s so fun. My sister comes with me everywhere. She’s like my little homie. She’s not traveling or anything right now, so I can text her whenever and she’ll be over. She even watches my cat while I’m gone, it’s just so cool.”
Williams also has that built-in friendship with her Storm teammates.
“Gabby’s amazing. I don’t think she realizes how amazing she can be,” Storm guard Jewell Loyd told The Next. “She’s one of my favorite players. She’s teaching me French, we’re watching Avatar together, we’re bonding a lot. She’s just the best.” (Williams, hearing this while walking past, jokingly replied, “Oh stop it!”).
All of this support has taken Williams’ game to the next level. As a starter for the Storm, Williams is averaging the highest minutes played in her career (25.2) and those minutes make a huge impact on the court. She is averaging 5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 0.4 blocks, all of which are the career-highs.
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When asked what part of her game Williams has been most proud of this season, she said:
“I’m really proud of the facilitator role that I’ve had on this team. Every time I touch the ball, even if it’s not scoring, I’m creating for others. I’m drawing in the defense, I’m doing something, and that’s where I’ve learned that I can be really good for this team. Everyone is helping me through it and I know exactly what the team needs from me every game.”
Storm head coach Noelle Quinn and Seattle teammates often talk about how vital her defending is to the success of the Storm, and how that often goes unnoticed to fans, but never to her teammates.
“The thing about Gabby is her defense,” said teammate Tina Charles. “She always has the toughest matchup when it comes to the guard on the opposing team and she never has her head down. She believes in herself and that helps us out a lot.”
“I think the time that she had last year with the French national team and the confidence she came back into this league with is great.”
Loyd also had nothing but good things to say about Williams’ impact on this Seattle team. “This is what we envisioned Gabby playing like all season. Now she’s starting to see it, being aggressive, and that’s what we need from her,” Loyd said.
Now that the Storm is more than halfway through the WNBA season, Williams is looking ahead at the end of the season and how she can continue to make an impact on this Seattle squad.
“I would love to be more efficient shooting-wise,” Williams said, “I think a lot of it is mental. I just want to get more comfortable and confident in that because I think that will open things up for us. But I want to just continue to create for others and create for myself when necessary.”
Much of the attention on Friday, when the Storm face the Mercury, will be focused on the final scheduled matchup between Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird. But be sure to keep your eye on Williams, whose play is as critical as anyone on the floor for Seattle.
The Next’s Em Adler contributed reporting to this story