CINCINNATI (BVM) – Solè Williams has shown immense talent throughout her basketball career. In the past year, that talent has led her to become a conference player of the year, first team all-state performer and the 51st-ranked player in the Class of 2023 by ESPN.
“I try not to get too caught up in the rankings, but I’m thankful for them to at least notice me and notice my talent,” Williams said. “I believe that I can get higher and higher and it just motivates me to want to get better.”
Williams’ continued basketball growth has been a long time in the making. After picking up the sport in third grade, Williams got serious with basketball in her middle school years at Pleasant Run. There, she helped the Knights to a conference championship and also showed her first glimpses of elite potential, evidenced by a 30-plus point scoring game in sixth grade.
“Everyone in the school really knew that I was the key player and how talented I was,” Williams said. “From there, I knew that I had something special and I was just working and working at it.”
Introduced to the game by her father, Williams was also able to watch both her older brother and sister have success on the hardwood before her. The family genes were certainly passed down, as Williams continued getting better and better while playing for her AAU team, Cincy’s Finest. Over the last few years, the hard work has not stopped, as Williams has had the chance to compete with Ohio United.
“It’s meant a lot,” Williams said. “Ohio United has opened a lot of doors for me as in meeting new coaches, as in colleges and getting to know these coaches. They’ve honestly helped me become a better person and a more mature person. They still are helping.”
Williams has been on the radar of many Division I college coaches for quite some time. However, last summer, she put on an incredible display at the NEO Elite Youth Showcase, further getting noticed and moving her up in the national ranks.
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“Honestly, it built a lot of confidence in me,” Williams said. “I played with a lot of my friends that I grew up playing with. I just played very loose. They had a whole bunch of media there and I just wanted to make sure I did the best that I could to get my name more out there. It really helped a lot with all of the media that was there recording to notice my talent and what I could do. It boosted my ego and my image, really.”
A leader on the court that can create her own shot at any time, Williams has also shined at Princeton. That was evident right off the bat in her freshman season as she averaged nearly 12 points per game playing alongside several upperclassmen.
However, the Vikings’ top scorer in 2019-20 would face some adversity in her sophomore season. Due to an ankle injury, she would miss nearly all of the 2020-21 campaign, and was still not quite right once she did return for Princeton’s final few games.
“Sophomore year made me become more of a student of the game,” Williams said. “It helped me study more of the game and see the things I don’t see when I’m on the court … I came back the last two games, but it wasn’t the best for me. I honestly think that I rushed it. But overall, it was just a learning experience.”
With the difficulty of having to watch from the bench as a sophomore, Williams was eager to return to the court at Princeton this past season coming off her strong summer.
“I was very excited, I was very hungry,” Williams noted. “I stayed in the gym a whole lot. I just wanted to make sure I could come back the best I could for my team because I knew how much of an impact it would be if I was to come back very good and on my ‘A’ game. Being out a whole year just motivated me.”
An even more motivated Williams was a scary sight for opponents last season. Named the Greater Miami Conference Athlete of the Year for girls basketball, the 5-foot-9 guard averaged 23.2 points, 3.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 3.6 steals as a junior, contributing multiple 30-plus point efforts.
“The overall year was a very good year,” Williams said. “We had our ups and downs of course, but overall we did very well and that was one of our best years.”
Not only was Williams terrific individually, but her return led her team to play better. Making it all the way to regionals where they would come up just short against powerhouse Mount Notre Dame, the Vikings went 23-4 on the year and 15-1 in a competitive Greater Miami Conference.
One of the true highlights of the season came late in December as Princeton earned an 86-59 blowout victory in its first meeting with Mount Notre Dame, ending the program’s 79-game win streak. Williams led the way with 33 points in the contest.
“We were all just hungry and eager to beat them,” Williams explained. “We knew it was going to be a big game so we all just made sure we gave it our all and were locked in. We wanted to be able to beat them and show that we’re not scared of anyone, and that’s what we did. After we won, we were super happy and excited for each other because we knew we had a bunch of potential.”
In addition to earning conference player of the year honors, Williams was also named first team All-Ohio after the season.
“It meant a lot because of all the time and energy that I put into basketball,” the junior added. “For me to get those awards, I was just really thankful that all my hard work has paid off and people are recognizing it. It makes me strive to want to get better and just keep doing what I’m doing.”
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for the Vikings’ turnaround this season was also the hiring of Coach Dee Davis. A former collegiate player at Vanderbilt, WNBA Draft pick and Princeton alum, Williams and her teammates were able to learn a lot from their new coach in her first year.
“She helped the team a whole bunch when she came in,” Williams said. “She changed the culture and just made it a family-like culture.
“What I’ve really taken from Coach Davis is just how to carry myself well in certain situations. She’s taught me a lot, really, it’s been a great experience with her so far. Our bond is really close, I feel like I can come to her about things. She has a goofy personality but she also knows how to get the job done. That’s what I like as well.”
Getting to learn from Davis is just another connection that Williams has made through basketball over the years. Meeting new people and gaining opportunities she otherwise wouldn’t have had is what Williams has enjoyed most about the sport.
“What I’ve come to love about it are the connections and being able to compete with other people across the world,” Williams said. “Basketball has really opened up a lot of doors and gave me the opportunity to see a lot of things I wouldn’t have seen if I wasn’t playing basketball. That’s what I really appreciate from the game.”
As a senior, Williams will look to have another strong season under Davis, hoping to lead Princeton to a state championship while also improving her numbers across the board. Then, it will be on to the next level where the guard is poised to make headlines once again.
The recruiting process for Williams started at a very young age, as she received her first college offer at just 13 years old. Obtaining offers from dozens of Division I programs, the initial stages of the process were a bit much at times.
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“There have been moments where it got very overwhelming honestly,” Williams said. “I didn’t want to burn any bridges or leave a bad taste in any coach’s mouth. I never had a problem with it, but it was just a lot with school and basketball, it was hard to juggle.”
The Princeton junior did adjust to the unique situation, and eventually narrowed her choices down to a handful of schools including the likes of NC State, Florida State, Tennessee and Michigan State. However, Louisville was also in the mix, and when it came down to it, the Cardinals were too good to pass up.
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— Solè (@solewilliams15) April 8, 2022
“The deciding factor on Louisville was probably my bond with the head coach,” Williams said. “I wanted to make sure I had a very close bond with the head coach because at the end of the day, that’s who’s making all the decisions. The staff was just super welcoming and I just felt like every time I went to the games, I could just see myself playing on the court. Their culture is very sweet and the support system is great.”
Jeff Walz’s squad is coming off a 29-5 season in which the Cardinals made a run to the Final Four. Among many stars on the team was sophomore Hailey Van Lith, someone who Williams is eager to potentially play alongside in a few years.
“I’m extremely excited to play with her,” Williams said about Van Lith. “She’s a great player, I love her energy. The way they get hyped, that’s what I love. Just the energy, it makes me want to be with them a whole lot.
“The things that I feel like I can bring to the table would probably be my energy and my hard work ethic.”
Coming off a terrific junior season and now having her college future locked up, bright things are ahead for Williams. While it is still many years down the road, it is never too early to look ahead. One of Williams’ biggest idols is Kelsey Mitchell, a Princeton High School grad who currently plays for the Indiana Fever.
The pinnacle of Williams’ basketball career would be achieving her goal of playing in the WNBA someday, and she is prepared to do whatever it takes to make her already impressive basketball career come full circle.
“I feel like I have the potential of making it into the WNBA and that’s how far I really want to go,” Williams concluded. “It will take a whole bunch of hard work and dedication. It will take a lot of sacrifice and my time. But I’m willing to do something for something that I love. If that’s what it takes, I’m all for it.”