In Makenlee Williams, Utah State has a budding star
Las Vegas, Nev. • The best freshman not on the all-WAC newcomer team made a case to try again with the whole postseason voting thing.
How could the league's coaches have missed Makenlee Williams?
Well, maybe she could take a few more shots than her 5.6-per-game average. If she has more nights like her 6-for-8, 16-point performance in a 78-65 win over Denver in the WAC tournament, she'll get noticed.
"I mean, Mak's a stud. We all know that," said Jennifer Schlott, who didn't shoot poorly herself. "She looked to shoot tonight, which was great because we always tell her to because she's the best shooter on this team - one of them. She could do this every night."
The Aggies sure hope she will one day.
The 5-foot-11 guard was ruthlessly efficient and scored in a lot of ways. Her fiery touch from the outside helped Utah State load up on 3-pointers. But her size helped her bang in the paint for layups and a team-high seven rebounds.
In Utah State's quick start, Williams synced up with the pace early.
"It got us going," she said. "Jen hit the three, I hit the three. I got pumped, I got going just in rhythm."
Williams lost only one game as a prep star at Syracuse High, so winning tournament games is second-nature. She didn't melt on center stage at Orleans Arena on Wednesday.
Jerry Finkbeiner said he saw his rookie dig into high school roots and play more like a veteran.
"I saw Mak's eyes," Finkbeiner said. "I saw her in warm-ups and said [to myself], 'Mak lives for this moment.' I wasn't surprised by the way she shot tonight."
This season, Williams has been coaxed to pull the trigger. The freshman has sometimes been gun-shy, which doesn't go over in Finkbeiner's fast-paced offense.
But in the tournament, Williams looked the part of a star in the making. It seems everybody expects her to shoot more in the future - even she knows she has to play all-out as the season comes to a close.
"This is it," Williams said. "This is what the preseason's for, what the two-a-days and conditioning, this is where it leads to. We just need to leave it all out on the floor, and if we do that we're a pretty good basketball team."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon