It happened after all the frenzy and after all the shouts of excitement and team hugs. After realizing that her team was the first Michigan women’s basketball team to win a championship and hang a banner at Crisler Center.
It was after she got to look up at the scoreboard and see her team had beaten Georgia Tech, 89-79, in the final of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. And it was after playing the final game of her collegiate career in a Michigan jersey.
After all of this, senior guard Danielle Williams got to hug her identical twin sister, Dominique. Dominique had hopped a red-eye from UCLA — where she plays on the Bruins’ women’s basketball team — to surprise her sister in the middle of pregame warmups. Danielle was shocked, especially as she had been trying to FaceTime and call her periodically throughout the day.
They embraced tightly at the team’s bench, both of them slightly emotional.
After all of the hysteric celebration, Danielle was able to describe why that moment was so emotional.
“I think she’s the greatest person that I know,” Williams said. “I will tell everybody that. We always joke like, ‘oh who’s the better twin?’ Not just in basketball, but in life. But honestly, I would always pick her. She’s the better one every single day and every single time, no matter what.
“She’s just that great, that selfless, that wonderful, and I’m just … I can’t believe she’s here, and it makes this that much more wonderful.”
Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico has just as much praise for Danielle herself. Earlier in the year and throughout Williams’ career, Barnes Arico has commended Williams for her contributions off the court, saying, “there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful that Danielle Williams is in the program.”
Barnes Arico even went so far as to add: “Every program needs a Danielle Williams. If my child could ever be like Danielle Williams, I would’ve hit a home run.”
Laura Williams, the twins’ mother, described the moment that Danielle realized Dominique would be her lifelong friend. The two, according to their mom, are inseparable. And when Dominique walked into Calihan Hall, Danielle’s “jaw dropped.”
The athletes decided to commit to different schools, a difficult decision for the two of them, but one they knew they needed to forge their own paths. But, according to Danielle, the duo still talks constantly, making the distance feel minute. Other things, too, tie the twins closer together. For example, Dominique was also selected as a team captain by her peers and, like Danielle, Dominique also wears the number 20 to honor WNBA Indiana Fever guard Briann January.
“I just think (the game was) great,” Dominique said. “Either way, it’s great. Win or lose, I’m proud of her. She’s done so much on and off the court, I’m just so proud of her. I’m excited for what she’s done in a Michigan uniform.”
Despite not playing as many minutes or stuffing the stat sheet as much as other players, Williams was voted as a team captain for two consecutive years. Some teammates even refer to her as ‘the Mom.’ Every single Wolverine felt motivated to win the WNIT for Danielle and her fellow senior guard Siera Thompson.
In her final year, Williams averaged 1.9 points per game, 2.8 rebounds and played an average of 17 minutes, though she appeared in all 37 games and started in 21. As a junior, she earned Academic All-Big Ten and her third varsity letter.
Williams will leave behind a gap in the roster, as most seniors do. Both she and Thompson were Barnes Arico’s first recruits for Michgian, making the pair a special class for the coach.
In the WNIT championship game, Williams grabbed two offensive rebounds and three defensive rebounds and contributed four points to the team’s total. She ended her college career by playing 35 of the 55 total minutes of the game.
Despite any personal achievements Williams may have had this season, she still remains humble to her team.
“I just don’t have any words,” Williams said. “It took everybody, and it took everything. Everybody contributed and everybody stepped up on the team. I can go through every single person on our team and things that they did tonight that they worked throughout the whole season for. We earned it, we definitely earned it.”
And, at the end, she got to earn it with her better half watching.