Editor’s note: This is the last in a five-part series previewing the top five girls basketball players in the Class of 2023 before the start of the 2022-23 high school season. Click here to see the latest rankings from the Class of 2023. Counting down: No. 5 Hannah Hidalgo | No. 4 Aalyah Del Rosario | No. 3 Jadyn Donovan | No. 2 Juju Watkins | No. 1 Mikaylah Williams.
Leadership, superior guard skills, unmatched discipline, a genuine passion for the game of basketball — Mikaylah Williams has anything and everything a college coaching staff could want.
For years now, Williams has set herself apart from other members of the Class of 2023 with an ever-rising ceiling of potential.
She’s a three-time gold medalist with Team USA, the reigning Gatorade Louisiana Girls Basketball Player of the Year and the lone junior to be named a 2022 Naismith Player of the Year finalist.
Last year, the 6-foot Williams averaged 13.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, leading Parkway High School (La.) to a first-place finish in Class 5A District 1. The Panthers ended the year with a 34-3 mark and lost in the state championship, but they return Williams and a host of others and will surely threaten to make another run.
Parkway coach Gloria Williams, who has led the Panthers since 2016, has admired her star guard’s character in every aspect of life and the way it translates into her play on the basketball court.
“Her mindset sets her apart,” Gloria said. “Her discipline sets her apart when it comes to training. In the classroom, it sets her apart — she’s a 4.0 student — and her work ethic just sets her apart from everyone else.
“She’s a top-notch kid raised by great parents, and it’s bred in her. She communicates with her teammates on and off the court. She’s just that kid.”
It’s typical for Williams to appear as the calmest player on the floor, regardless of the score, situation or opponent. Her coach has seen that mentality rub off on her teammates and foster a culture of resilience and success.
“That’s her. Her demeanor doesn’t change,” Gloria said. “It’s always something positive, and she’s the calm to the team. It’s nothing that necessarily has been taught or something that’s learned. I think it’s just in her.
“Great leaders lead, but there are servant leaders. That’s how I see Mikaylah.”
Gloria cited Williams’ defensive improvement as the biggest key to her growth as a player. The guard she was in last season’s title game is not the same one who will take the court for Parkway in 2022-23.
“I am a defensive-minded coach, so I was extremely pleased with that,” Gloria said. “I’ve told her from the beginning, ‘You can score with the best of them,’ and to sit and stay in front of people and defend, that’s the portion that I am most proud of for her at this stage.
“We’ll see what she brings to the table for this season because I know it’s gonna be something.”
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This summer, Williams earned her second and third gold medals with Team USA — first, in Debrecen, Hungary with the U17 team, followed by her return to the 3×3 squad in August. Williams was once again named MVP of the 3×3 tournament.
She also wrapped up her AAU career with Mavs Elite and played in the Under Armour Next Elite 24 game.
Williams recently signed her National Letter of Intent with LSU, where she leads one of the most impressive classes of the 2023 cycle, alongside Aalyah Del Rosario and Angelica Velez of The Webb School (Tenn.) and Janae Kent of Oak Forest (Ill.)
“I believe she’s going to carry everything she’s learned with her to LSU,” Gloria said. “And I think she’s going to build on that. That’s one thing about her I can say: Every year she has brought something to the game of basketball here for us.
“Defensively, she stepped up last year, she can go to the basket any time that she wants to, and she has the frame of a college player already. When she gets to LSU, she’s just going to turn it up another notch because that’s her dream school. That’s where she wants to be. So, she’s going to give it everything that she has.”
Caroline Makauskas is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports. She also covers a variety of sports on her TikTok @cmakauskas. Follow her on Twitter @cmakauskas.