The WNBA's Elizabeth Williams keeps getting better. In fact, in 2016, the 6'3" Atlanta Dream power forward was voted the WNBA's Most Improved Player. That year, she went from scoring an average of 3.3 points to 11.9 per game and increased her rebounding average from 3.2 to 8. Elizabeth has an impressive educational stat sheet too, which she'll put to work when she hangs up her sneakers.
Medicine is the Williams's family business. Elizabeth’s mom is a nurse, and her dad is a doctor. At Duke, she followed that path, earning a degree in psychology and interning at the Duke Medical Center. Elizabeth knows her way around a basketball court and an operating room, having observed brain and spinal surgeries during her internship. "If I wasn't playing basketball right now, I would be in med school or a doctor," she told me. "That's what I want to do when I finish playing." While she's not rushing to move on from basketball quite yet, she imagines herself working in orthopedics or perhaps sports medicine.
With an eye on the future, Elizabeth recently spent a semester at the Harvard Business School's Crossover Into Business program. The classes are targeted toward pro athletes who want to set themselves up for success after their active sports careers end.
Elizabeth stays true to herself. In line with her love of learning, she takes a cerebral approach to basketball. "My parents always emphasized education, and that made me a better player," she says. Elizabeth's upbringing taught her a lot about hard work. She was born in England to Nigerian parents and moved to America when she was a kid. “You see how my parents came over here and they worked super hard to give us everything, and they just grew from the ground up, so it’s inspiring to me, too," she told High Post Hoops.
To prepare for each game, Elizabeth follows the advice of her parents and studies, just like when she was in school. She reviews the scouting report and any films she can get her hands on. "I pay attention to the numbers," she explains. "I try to get the stats on different moves post players make. So I'll think about that: 'OK, on this side, she's more likely to use her right hand. Or, if I force her into this shot, she's less likely to make it as opposed to another one.'" This brainy approach makes her one of the best defensive players in the league.
Elizabeth hopes her dedication to learning inspires young fans. She enjoys talking to kids about the importance of prioritizing schoolwork along with sports. "I try to emphasize that balance," she says."For some people, schoolwork is just something you have to do," Elizabeth notes. "For me, I enjoy learning." With that smart attitude, there's nothing she can't do.