Basketball

Ionia senior hoping to cap her career on prestigious list

Ionia's Jaylynn Williams, right, is on the cusp of becoming just the eight player in program history to score 1,000 career points.

Ionia’s Jaylynn Williams, right, is on the cusp of becoming just the eight player in program history to score 1,000 career points.

IONIA – Jaylynn Williams was one of the players fortunate enough to see the prestigious list.

The list is topped with a question: “Where do you see your name?” Underneath that, it displays the names of the handful of players in Ionia girls basketball history who were able to surpass 1,000 career points. Longtime coach Andrew Barr is the one that possesses this document, and it’s not something he breaks out often.

“I want them to think about what they want to accomplish over their career,” Barr said, “and not just as a team but individually, too.”

Williams was a freshman on varsity when she became aware of the 1,000-point club. She said she envisioned her name on the list one day.

“I thought, ‘Man, it would be nice to be a part of this,'” said Williams, who is now just one of two seniors on the roster. “It’s been one of my goals since then.”

The four-year varsity guard is on the cusp of becoming just the seventh player in program history to join that distinguished group, which is headlined by former Michigan Miss Basketball Kellie Watson (2008) — who scored more than 1,500 points at Ionia before leaving for Notre Dame and transferring to Grand Valley State to finish her career. Williams recently surpassed 900 career points with, at least 14 games remaining in her senior season.

She’s averaging 18.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game for the Bulldogs (5-2) and has helped them get out to one of their better starts during her tenure.

“It (joining the 1,000-point club) would always be something to remember when you come back and visit,” Williams said.

Williams was on Barr’s radar far before she set foot in the halls of Ionia High School. The 15th-year coach saw her potential when she was in third grade, playing against sixth-graders in a now-defunct fall league the program used to hold for younger players.

“We didn’t have enough sixth-graders, and when she was in third grade, I told her parents, ‘Hey, I need another kid that can handle the ball,'” Barr said. “She played with our sixth-graders and was probably the best player.”

Williams remembers not feeling out of place.

“It seemed like I belonged,” she said.

Williams enjoyed early success when she got to the varsity ranks. In her first two seasons, she was part of a team that captured two consecutive Class B district titles.

That streak ended last year when the Bulldogs fell to Portland in the district semifinals. Helping her team make another district title run is one of the goals Williams has before her time expires with the program.

“We’re a very young team,” Williams said. “The past couple years, we weren’t that young, but this is an inexperienced team.”

Coming into her final leg, Williams, who Barr says is a normally quiet person on the court, understood she would have to take it to another level vocally with the younger players on this year’s squad.

Barr started encouraging her to think about her new role after last year’s season-ending loss. It was a unique approach, as Barr wanted Williams to look at the impact of former Raiders star player Olivia Roe, who contributed to Ionia’s loss in the district tournament.

“She’s (Williams) not a super vocal person, which makes it hard to lead. But she leads more by example,” Barr said. “(Roe) did a lot for Portland and was a very vocal leader and would sacrifice her own scoring to get her teammates involved.

“It just happened to be our rival team that the person played for. I knew we would be very similar.”

Williams admits it’s been an adjustment going from her previous role as a standout scorer playing with other seniors to being the definite leader. She’s getting used to it, however, and Barr believes her growth in that department will be central to her career ending on a high note.

“We’re off to one of our better starts,” he added. “I thought the schedule was very favorable to us early on, which allows the girls to get some wins and some confidence.

“They have a lot of confidence in her, and she’s the kind of player who can get hot and carry a team a long way. It’ll be tough.”

Contact James L. Edwards III at jledwards@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.

Ionia's Jaylynn Williams, right, is on the brink of becoming the program's eighth player to score 1,000 career points.

Ionia’s Jaylynn Williams, right, is on the brink of becoming the program’s eighth player to score 1,000 career points.

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