East Lansing — Madison Williams came to Michigan State three years ago as a McDonald’s All-American with unlimited potential.
And in those three years, she’s played ... 25 minutes.
“It’s obviously really scary,” said the 6-foot-7 Williams, who tore her right ACL her freshman season, and suffered ACL injuries in her left knee the next two seasons. “It’s sad that this is kind of my reality, but I’ve kind of accepted that and overcome that.
“I am getting closer and it’s not quite so up in the air as it has been in past years.”
Williams is practicing, but not during 5-on-5 drills. She hopes to play by mid-December.
“I know it’s going to break my heart the first time I have to be on the bench and not be in there, but I’ll still be warming up which is different than last year,” Williams said. “Every day I’m taking a step closer to my goal.
Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant is cautiously optimistic, saying she expects nothing, and whatever Williams gives the Spartans will be a bonus.
“I’m going in like we’re not going to have her and if it happens it’s awesome,” said Merchant, who has guided the Spartans to six straight 20-plus win seasons and five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. “If we play her it would be in small spurts, right around media timeouts, minute or minute and a half.”
Michigan State sophomore guard Aerial Powers was a high school teammate of Williams at Detroit Country Day. She said she’s not surprised Williams is still playing.
And, she does expect her to play a big role this season.
“I’ve known Madison forever and know how she is as a person and she’s determined,” Powers said. “I know she will give everything she has for the team.
“I think she’s going to be able to help us defensively because her height alone will alter shots and I feel like our fast break will be great because of her rebounds.”
Williams has a different mind-set, knowing her knees could sometimes give her trouble.
She said they are sore and will be the rest of her life. She receives treatment every day, and tapes her knees, which helps with swelling.
“It’s been a long journey,” Williams said. “It’s just the little frustrations, like every day in practice last year when I’m not in the trenches with my teammates. One thing that my parents and I really talked about this year and my mind-set’s different, is that I can’t go in every day in practice and kill it every day.
“I can’t expect that I’m going to feel 100 percent every day, you just can’t expect that coming off of what I had. I just have to make the most of what I have that day.”