Dezi Williams has been a standout in every sport she’s ever played. But one game, above all others, is her absolute favorite.
Williams made her preference official last week.
The McDowell High senior outfielder verbally committed to play softball at USC-Upstate in Spartanburg last year, and signed with the college late last week at the beginning of the early signing period.
Williams is a two-time all-conference performer in both softball and basketball, but said her dream has always been to pursue a college career on the diamond.
“I’ve played basketball and softball since I was about 5 years old,” said Williams, a four-year varsity player in both sports. “I always loved softball more than I did basketball. So that’s why I decided to sign for softball with Upstate. It’s always been what I’ve wanted to play, for a long time. That’s what I’m passionate about.”
Lady Titans head coach Catriona Young said Williams’ passion has given her a work ethic that will allow her to be successful at the next level.
“I’ve known her since seventh grade,” said Young, herself a former MHS standout. “I coached her in basketball at West (Middle School) and then I’ve had the privilege of coaching her for three years at the high school. She’s great.
“She is determined and willing to work. She’s really coachable and she’s willing to put in the work that needs to be put in to be able to excel on the softball field. “She has all the athletic ability that is needed.”
Williams’ stats and accolades verify Young’s statement.
As a junior last spring, Williams earned All-Northwestern 3A/4A Conference and N.C. Softball Coaches Association All-District and All-State honors. It was Williams’ second straight appearance on both the all-league and all-district teams.
The speedy center fielder led the Lady Titans in hitting (.426), doubles (8), on-base percentage (.456), stolen bases (21) and runs (21). Williams was second on the team with a .629 slugging percentage and tied for second in hits with 23. She also had a home run and drove in nine.
As a sophomore, Williams batted .382 with three RBIs and 14 stolen bases to go with a .451 on-base percentage.
Along the way, she also became a two-time all-conference pick at guard for the Lady Titans basketball team, and is expected to be a key player for McDowell this season as well.
Young said she hopes the fact Williams committed to USC-Upstate early will allow the senior star to focus on improving her game without the stress of choosing a college.
“Typically, whenever kids sign, it’s a weight lifted off their shoulders,” said Young. “They’re no longer trying to decide where they belong, where they fit in. They’re just able to play stress-free.”
Williams said USC-Upstate was a perfect fit from Day 1.
“I just can’t wait to be able to play at the next level and get a good education at Upstate and be successful,” she said. “I love everything about Upstate. I love how the coach talks; he wants to win and doesn’t like to lose. I just like the atmosphere there and I feel like I could gain a lot from Upstate.
“It’s an hour-and-a-half away, and I can always come home and they can come see me. It’s not that long of a drive. I’m very excited.”
Williams will join a Spartans squad coming off a successful spring campaign. USC-Upstate went 35-19 last season in its final year as part of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Spartans joined the Division I Big South Conference for the 2018 athletic year. Upstate is coached by Chris Hawkins.
Note: Young said Williams’ showcase coaches, Randy Gallion and Curtis Hudgins, were instrumental in her development and recruitment. “They put in a lot of time and do a lot of talking to coaches,” said Young. “Those guys do a great job.”