Basketball Is Family

By Lanetta Williams

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It’s amazing how much of a connection I feel to a seemingly ordinary orange ball.

For most people, especially those that don’t play the sport, they just see a basketball.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

But for me, when I see a basketball, it represents everything that I hold dear in my heart. Truthfully, my entire life has been associated with basketball.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To know me is to know the impact basketball has had on me since I was a little girl. My life, family, and upbringing cannot be described without mentioning that round orange ball that’s been by my side for almost my entire life.

A vision in Turkey

Basketball has given me the opportunity to live and visit places all around the world, and it started at a young age.

My dad was a professional basketball player and played overseas for teams in Turkey, Greece, and Bosnia. Turkey is the country that stands out to me the most because I was around six or seven when I attended a women’s all-star game in Turkey.

It was that game in Turkey where I decided I wanted to play basketball, too. I saw all these talented women out there doing amazing things on the court, and I thought to myself — that could be me one day.

The basketball court was like a calling to me in that sense.

It was where I belonged.

As I got older, things started falling into place.

Around the eighth or ninth grade, the vision I had at that all-star game in Turkey was starting to become a reality.

The college letters started coming in. As I anxiously ripped open each letter, I knew I had a big decision to make.

Once again, basketball was about to impact and bless my life with another opportunity, but I needed to find the school that was the best fit for me.

For my family.

And most importantly, a place I could call home for my collegiate career.

I saw all these talented women out there doing amazing things on the court, and I thought to myself — that could be me one day. The basketball court was like a calling to me in that sense. It was where I belonged.

Staying home

It’s kind of ironic that I said I needed to find a college to call home because when I chose to sign and play basketball for the University of Memphis, I was already living in Memphis with my family.

My family and I moved to Memphis when I was around nine, so I grew up being a huge Memphis Tigers fan, and the university has always had a special place in my heart.

They were one of the first schools that started recruiting me, and they always treated both me and my family incredibly well. So the decision to ultimately sign with Memphis wasn’t terribly difficult.

In addition to that, being in a tight-knit family, having the chance to still visit them whenever I wanted was another deciding factor in choosing Memphis.

Oh, and I didn’t even mention my favorite part about playing for Memphis.

I get to play with my twin sister.

Double trouble

To play basketball at Memphis with my twin sister, Lanyce, was a dream come true.

She’s my best friend.

My rock.

She knows me better than I know myself sometimes.

There’s a unique bond twins share that only twins can understand, and having her by my side at Memphis was everything I hoped it would be and more.

She played with me at Memphis for the first couple of seasons, but injuries took a toll on her basketball career, so starting this season in 2022-2023, she transitioned into a new career — a coaching career as an undergraduate assistant coach at Memphis.

Make no mistake about it, though, she doesn’t take it easy on me. Coach Merriweather has this tally system – if you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to or make egregious mistakes – you get a tally.

Dearest Lanyce was controlling the tallies one day and I noticed I had a bunch next to my name. Coach Merriweather didn’t yell at me or anything the entire practice, so I didn’t understand why I had so many tallies.

When I confronted Lanyce about this, she had a much different viewpoint.

“You did this wrong.”

“You were in the wrong position here.”

“You messed up and were late to the ball in this spot.”

And so on and so forth.

While it’s easy for me to shake my head at my sister at times, I love having her on the sidelines because she’s my biggest fan and also my biggest critic.

I know she’s going to hold me accountable and keep me honest. And most importantly, do everything in her power to help make me a better player.

She’s the best.

Basketball and sports lifer

At this moment, I’m not entirely sure what the future holds for my basketball career.

One thing I know for sure is I’m going to stay in the moment and focus on this 22-23 season. Focusing on the objectives and goals directly in front of me has gotten me this far, and that mindset hasn’t let me down yet.

Another thing I’m certain of is I’ll never be too far away from a basketball court. Like I said, basketball has always been a major part of my life.

It’s family.

It’s in my blood.

It started all those years ago in Turkey, watching my dad play professionally, and it’s continued at Memphis with my sister.

When it comes time to hang up the basketball shoes one day, I could see myself working up the ranks in college athletics and maybe becoming an athletic director one day.

But, today, I’m solely focused on my remaining time her at Memphis.

With my team.

With my twin sister.

And my family in the stands.